In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Contemporary Brazilian Cinema

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • On the EDGE of the Cliff (the 1980s and Early 1990s)
  • The “Renaissance” or Cinema Da Retomada (The Retomada Years)
  • By the Numbers
  • The City of God Effect
  • The Critical Arena I and the Reckoning With History
  • The Critical Arena II and the Newest Brazilian Cinema (Novíssimo Cinema Brasileiro)
  • Contemporary Documentary Film

Latin American Studies Contemporary Brazilian Cinema
Alfredo Luiz Suppia
  • LAST REVIEWED: 15 January 2019
  • LAST MODIFIED: 15 January 2019
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199766581-0171


At first glance, contemporary Brazilian cinema seems to be the byproduct of a mid-1990s renaissance in national film production. Accordingly, to better understand contemporary Brazilian cinema, it is advisable to recall the Brazilian film industry’s situation in the 1980s. An unsteady period followed by a major decline in national film production in the late-1980s and early-1990s, these were years illustrated by the dismantling of Embrafilme (Empresa Brasileira de Filmes), culminating in the complete eradication of the state-run film production and distribution company in March 1990. Around 1993–1994, however, a renaissance of Brazilian cinema occurred, in terms of film production and ticket sales, which has been called “Cinema da Retomada.” A cinematic phenomenon, fundamentally fueled by the industry’s access to new sources of state funding, the Retomada was predominately brought about by fiscal exemptions allowed by the Audiovisual Law (Lei do Audiovisual), as well as by grants such as the “Prêmio Resgate do Cinema Brasileiro,” coming from the Ministry of Culture. Later, the Rouanet Law (Lei Rouanet) strengthened the funding not only for film, but for cultural projects and events as a whole. Likewise, municipal and state laws promoting fiscal exemptions also had a fundamental role in the recovery of film production in the country. All these laws allowed the private initiative to redirect funds from taxes to film production. This article will provide a basic bibliography of the aforementioned topics, addressing the economic, sociological, and aesthetic issues related to contemporary Brazilian cinema.

General Overviews

A comprehensive resource here is Ramos and Miranda 2004, a reliable reference book in which one can find introductory information on various topics regarding contemporary Brazilian cinema. As seen in Ramos and Miranda 2004, the history of 1990s Brazilian cinema starts with two political acts: (1) the stamping out of the governmental agencies Embrafilme, Concine, and Fundação do Cinema Brasileiro, by President Fernando Collor de Mello in 1990; and (2) the validation of the Audiovisual Law (Lei do Audiovisual, no. 8.695/93) on July 20, 1993, a law that promotes the funding of Brazilian feature films by means of fiscal exemption. While in the beginning of the 1990s, only three Brazilian feature films were being screened each year, between 1995 and 1997, thirty-one films were produced and exhibited. The feature film that most remarkably represents this Brazilian cinema renaissance is Carla Camurati’s Carlota Joaquina—Princeza do Brasil (1994). Some critics and scholars advocate that, as a cycle, Cinema da Retomada came to an end with Walter Salles’s Central Station (Central do Brasil, released in 1998). Others deem Fernando Meirelles and Kátia Lund’s City of God (Cidade de Deus, released in 2002) as the true closing milestone of this renaissance. And a third perspective has considered Cinema da Retomada as a hitherto unending film cycle, given the persistence of the fiscal exemption mechanisms that prompted market recovery back in 1993/1994. Useful for further discussions on contemporary film production, a straightforward history of Brazilian cinema can be found in Stam and Johnson 1979. This work charts the shape of Brazilian cinema up until the late 1970s, when the state production and distribution company Embrafilme was already in full operation. A variety of works by experienced authors concerned with the economic, sociological, and aesthetic aspects affecting the new rise of the Brazilian film industry from the mid-1990s onwards can be found in Nagib 2003. Bernardet 2009 provides a number of essays and film critiques that help to “connect the dots” in terms of the context leading up to the early-1990s renaissance in Brazilian film production, the renaissance itself and the nascent horizons of contemporary Brazilian cinema. Butcher 2005 offers a short introduction to Brazilian cinema’s recent history while addressing aesthetic issues related to recent films. Finally, Bayman and Pinazza 2013 presents an updated selection of essays covering the history and aesthetics of Brazilian cinema, its main movements and achievements.

  • Bayman, Louis, and Natália Pinazza, eds. Directory of World Cinema: Brazil. Bristol, UK: Intellect, 2013.

    This collection of essays on the history and aesthetics of Brazilian cinema provides introductory information on some outstanding movements, film genres, and issues (such as gender and ethnicity) that have appeared throughout the history of Brazilian cinema.

  • Bernardet, Jean-Claude. Cinema Brasileiro: Propostas para uma História. São Paulo, Brazil: Companhia das Letras, 2009.

    With this collection of essays, first published in 1979, Bernardet closely examines the history of Brazilian cinema. This revised and enhanced edition includes thoughts on Brazilian film production, which preempted the early-1990s crisis in film production and followed its revival in 1994/1995.

  • Butcher, Pedro. Cinema Brasileiro Hoje. São Paulo, Brazil: Publifolha, 2005.

    With a focus on contemporary Brazilian film production, Butcher compiles his impressions as a film critic in this work. This is a non-academic and very short introduction to the recent Brazilian film scene that benefits from the author’s work in the press.

  • Desbois, Laurent. A Odisséia do Cinema Brasileiro—Da Atlântida a Cidade de Deus. São Paulo, Brazil: Companhia das Letras, 2016.

    Desbois’s foreign gaze comments on the history of Brazilian cinema from the late 1940s chanchadas, produced by Atlântida, until the new Brazilian cinema in the 1990s. The Brazilian modern film movement called Cinema Novo, the influence of Tropicalism in Brazilian cinema in the 1960s and 1970s, the Cinema Marginal movement, and the role of the state film production company called Embrafilme are major topics tackled by Desbois.

  • Nagib, Lúcia, ed. The New Brazilian Cinema. London: I. B. Tauris, 2003.

    A collection of high quality essays on contemporary Brazilian cinema, this work is written by renowned film scholars such as Ismail Xavier, João Luiz Vieira, and Fernão Ramos. The book provides new perspectives and vocabularies for the academic critique of the New Brazilian Cinema, such as the idea of the “resentful character” (Xavier) or “narcissism turned inside out” (Ramos).

  • Ramos, Fernão, and Luiz Felipe Miranda, eds. Enciclopédia do Cinema Brasileiro. 2d ed. São Paulo, Brazil: Editora Senac, 2004.

    This work represents a reliable and comprehensive reference book that provides useful introductory information on a broad variety of topics related to Brazilian cinema, including information on recent film production, such as the entry Contemporary Brazilian Cinema (The 1990s) [Cinema Brasileiro Contemporâneo (Anos 90)].

  • Stam, Robert, and Johnson, Randal. “Beyond Cinema Novo.” Jump Cut 21 (November 1979).

    Stam and Johnson provide a useful overview of Brazilian cinema from the silent era up until the late 1970s. Emerging from the aftermath of Cinema Novo in 1964 (an influential modern cinema movement in Brazil), the 1970s was a period when the state production and distribution company Embrafilme was already in full operation.

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