History of the institution

By Rafael de Luna with the collaboration of the ABPA
(Brazilian Association of Audiovisual Preservation)

The Cinemateca Brasileira started out as Filmoteca do Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo (The São Paulo Modern Art Museum Film Archive) in 1949. In 1956, its directors created the Sociedade Civil Cinemateca Brasileira, renamed Fundação Cinemateca Brasileira in 1961, keeping its status as a non-profit organization. In this inaugural period, the most vocal defender of the institution was the critic and researcher Paulo Emilio Salles Gomes.

In 1984, the Cinemateca was incorporated by the federal government, becoming a public corporation connected to the Fundação Nacional Pró-Memória (Pro-Memory National Foundation), and then the Instituto do Patrimônio Histórico e Artístico Nacional (National Landmark and Artistic Patrimony Institute). In 2003, following a decision by its board of directors, the Cinemateca Brasileira became connected to the Audiovisual Secretariat, part of the now-extinct Ministry of Culture.   

In the 2000s, the federal government implemented a policy to centralize resources and collections in the institution, to the detriment of archives in other parts of the country. Through the Sociedade Amigos da Cinemateca (SAC – Friends of the Cinemateca Association), a non-profit, the Cinemateca Brasileira receives large investments from the Ministry, expanding its facilities and resources. In 2006, the Cinemateca Brasileira hosted the 62nd Congress of the International Association of Film Archives (FIAF). The institution was established as the largest film archive in Latin America. 

This visible growth was met with protests against the lack of transparency by its direction. In 2010, for example, a group of documentary filmmakers, researchers, and film producers published an open letter demanding changes in the policy of access to the collections of the institution. Episodes of persecution of employees by the direction also become public. 

In 2013, an audit by the Federal Budget Control Institution noted problems in expenditure and service contracts by the Cinemateca Brasileira/SAC. The directors of the institution were replaced. The number of employees, which at that time were already in precarious instability, became further reduced. The activities of the Cinemateca slowed down and, with the arrival of a national economic crisis, the funds wither away. 

On February 3, 2016, a fire in one of the nitrate film vaults destroyed over 1000 reels of film. Around 40% of the lost reels had no copies, either on film or digital.   

Between 2016 and 2017, the Ministry of Culture signed a contract with a privately-owned non-profit, the Associação de Comunicação Roquette Pinto (ACERP) to implement a preservation project that allows ACERP to hire workers without providing benefits, job security, or stability. 

In March 2018, the direction of the Cinemateca was transferred to ACERP, following the general policy of privatizations by the Michel Temer presidential administration (2016-18). The non-profit started running the entire institution using public resources, but with permission to capitalize on the facilities and the collection. All the employees were asked to sign new contracts, leaving them in even more precarious positions.  

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