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Rocha, Glauber Pedro de Andrade (1939–1981)

Rocha, Glauber Pedro de Andrade (1939–1981)

The Brazilian filmmaker and critic Glauber Rocha was born in Vitória da Conquista, in inland Bahia, on March 14, 1939. He took an early interest in the performing arts, writing his first play at age ten. As a teenager he worked in radio, joined amateur theater and cinema groups, and participated in the students' union. At age eighteen he was accepted at the University of Bahia to study law. He released his first short film, Pátio, in 1958 and shortly thereafter left the university, devoting himself to film production and criticism.

In 1962 he relocated to Rio de Janeiro, attracted by the Cinema Novo (New Cinema) movement, which prioritized human, existential, and social contradictions. He proposed a more realistic, more politicized, and less costly type of filmmaking. His 1963 book Revisão crítica do cinema brasileiro (Critical review of Brazilian cinema), discussed fundamental historical aspects of the country's cinema. At the same time, he filmed Deus e o diablo na terra do sol (Black god, white devil), released in 1964, considered an icon of Brazilian identity.

Rocha was promoting his film at international festivals when the military coup occurred in Brazil. He remained abroad, and in January 1965 he published a manifesto, A Estética da Fome (The aesthetics of hunger) in which he explained his aesthetic and political foundations for Cinema Novo. Upon returning to Brazil, he was arrested in November 1965 during a protest against the military. Well-known European filmmakers headed up a petition for his release, which occurred twenty-three days later.

Rocha's 1967 film Terra em transe (Earth entranced; also released as Land in Anguish) won the Critics' Award at the Cannes Film Festival. His next film, O Dragão da Maldade contra o Santo Guerreiro earned him the Best Director Award at Cannes in 1969 and was his most famous and widely seen creation. Shortly thereafter he filmed Cabezas cortadas (1970; Severed Heads).

Faced with an increasingly harsh military regime, Rocha went into exile in 1971. Three years later he sent a letter to a Brazilian journalist praising the recently installed military government. The letter raised the hackles of the Left, which until then had supported him.

Claro, a feature-length drama filmed in Italy in 1975, ended a five-year hiatus from filmmaking. After returning to Brazil in mid-1976, he was involved in yet another controversy by October: He filmed the funeral of the famous painter Emiliano Di Cavalcanti without consent from the family, who subsequently blocked public screenings of the documentary.

In 1978 Rocha began shooting A idade da terra (The Age of the Earth; released 1980), and the following year he interviewed guests on a provocative television series, Abertura. While in Europe to promote The Age of the Earth in 1981, he fell severely ill and was hospitalized. He was rushed back to Brazil, where he died two days later, on August 22.

See alsoCinema: From the Silent Film to 1990; Cinema Novo.


Bandeira, Roberto. Pequeno dicionário crítico do cinema brasileiro. Rio de Janeiro: Shogun Arte, 1983.

Bentes, Ivana. Cartas ao mundo/Glauber Rocha. São Paulo: Companhia das Letras, 1997.

Miranda, Felipe, and Ramos, Fernão Ramos, eds. Enciclopédia do cinema brasileiro. São Paulo: SENAC, 2000.

                                 Carmen Lucia de Azevedo

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