Brazil is by all accounts the nation of the future. After centuries resigned to its status as a sleeping giant plagued by endemic poverty and corruption, it seems that the great nation’s vital energy and boundless resources may at last turn Brazil into a global power. For many Brasileiros it is a time of tremendous possibility and optimism, where the dormant potential of a former empire of 200 million people may finally be unleashed into the world.
So what does that mean for Brazilian film? The iconic images codified by Cinema Novo filmmakers of drought-stricken deserts and hungry peasants seem about as distant to 21st-century Brazil as The Grapes of Wrath is for the United States. Modern Brazil is a nation of car factories, high rise constructions and great agricultural enterprises. So how can cinema do justice to this spirit of advancement and hope? Enter Brasil S/A (translated as Brazilian Dream but more akin to “Brazil Inc.”), Marcelo Pedroso’s highly conceptual, satirical take on the delirious, messianic march of Brazilian progress that premiered this past January at the Berlin Film Festival.
Featuring no dialogue, this experimental feature is a collision of triumphal images accompanied by a bombastic, grandiloquent orchestral soundtrack. Using the polished, pristine language of car commercials and corporate videos as well as the heroic low-angles of political propaganda, Pedroso presents us with the image of a highly mechanized society, drunk on its own progress and oblivious to the myriad social problems that have yet to be addressed.
In watching the trailer, this idealized self-projection of a Brazil on-the-move takes on a disturbing subtext, where the excessive perfection of each image seems to reveal its essential artifice. Ultimately, the haunting question driving this film must be: what truly lies beneath Brazil’s glossy image of self-reinvention?
Brasil S/A shows us that by taking the false language of propaganda – both political and corporate – one step further, the fantasies they purport to sell begin to rapidly crumble. Now, just replace the Brazilian flags with stars and stripes, the tropical cityscapes with East Coast high rises, and we here in the States could probably stand to learn just as much about our own national self-image from Brasil S/A.