In 1964, the beginning of the military dictatorship caused cinema novo to experience a sudden demise. Government hard-liners censored any criticism of Brazil and forced many directors into exile. Instead, in 1969 the government created Embrafilme, a state-run production company whose goal was to develop Brazilian filmmaking. Although censorship, bureaucracy, and favoritism severely limited artistic expression, Embrafilme did provide enough capital to maintain a small industry that funded the production of important films by major directors, such as Bruno Barreto’s Dona Flor e Seus Dois Maridos (Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands, 1976) and Cacá Diegues’s Bye Bye Brasil (1979).
The end of Brazil’s military dictatorship also meant the end of Embrafilme and a state-subsidized film industry. By the early 1990s only 3–4 Brazilian films were being released each year. Fortunately, things improved with the introduction of new incentive laws whereby private companies that invested in film productions would receive tax breaks. Eager to see their lives depicted onscreen, Brazilians flocked to the cinema in record numbers, despite the fact that, since the 1970s, more than two-thirds of movie theaters had been closed down, often converted into evangelical churches. Not only did the number of films produced gradually grow, but the quality was on par with the best of world cinema and was recognized as such by foreign critics, who showered awards on productions such as the Oscar-winning Central do Brasil (Central Station), directed by Walter Salles, and Fernando Meirelles’s Cidade de Deus (City of God, 2002), which took both Brazil and the world by storm with its brilliantly acted story of survival amid the gang warfare typical of a Carioca favela.
Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Living Abroad in Brazil.