The End and the Beginning, Look at Me Again
The northeast of Brazil, or sertaõ, occupies a prominent place in the country’s national identity and cultural imagination. The cliché of the hardened, oppressed, impoverished people of the northeast, plagued by local barons, false prophets, and a perpetual drought, dominated many of the most powerful films of the Cinema Novo movement (Brazil’s unique take on cinema verité).
In The End and the Beginning, Brazil’s greatest documentary filmmaker, Eduardo Coutinho, heads to the small sertaõ state of Paraíba with no preconceived ideas other than wanting to film a rural community. The film tracks the process of finding a small town to shoot in and then settles down into a series of lively conversations that Coutinho held with the town’s residents. Coutinho is known as one of cinema’s great interviewers, conversationalists, and students of human spirit. All of these talents are displayed to their fullest as viewers witness how Coutinho’s visit has affected the lives of these northeasterners, and vice versa. (110 mins., video)
Look at Me Again is a most remarkable road movie, and Silvyo Lucio is its remarkable tour guide. Born a woman, Silvyo lived much of his life as a lesbian until he eventually took steps to become a man. Silvyo’s life story and outlook is at the heart of Look at Me Again, but the movie also sets out to find a bigger perspective. Silvyo lives in a small town in the sertaõ, a land of “machos,” and in some ways relates to the stereotype of the northeastern man while still being very much an outsider. He takes to the road to investigate a medical dilemma—whether he and his wife can have a child that shares both of their DNA. But along the way, Silvyo stops and meets with all sorts of people—from the disabled to the adopted—who feel like outcasts in this sometimes harsh region. (79 mins., video)
Made before Karim Aïnouz’s breakthrough feature Madame Satã, Seams sees Aïnouz visit his family homestead in the sertaõ to collect stories from his five great aunts about romance, suffering, and survival in a man’s world. Included in the 1995 Whitney Biennial, the film parallels the aunts’ stories with the challenges of being gay in the northeast’s “macho” culture. Aïnouz visits the Wex for a retrospective of his feature films in April 2014. (28 mins., video)