By Rafael de Luna with the collaboration of the ABPA
(Brazilian Association of Audiovisual Preservation)
In January 2019, Jair Bolsonaro became the president of Brazil, terminated the Ministry of Culture, and turned it into a special secretariat.
In September, the press publicized that the new administration was using the Cinemateca Brasileira to hand out jobs to political allies and propagate the government’s extreme-right ideology, with initiatives such as a program of military films.
In the same period, the public servants that were still part of the institution were moved to other federal positions, removing professionals with valuable experience in the field. The absence of employees with contractual stability further compromised the maintenance structure of the institution, which is now run exclusively by temporary workers.
In December 2019, the contract with ACERP that included the administration of the Cinemateca Brasileira, among other organs, was unilaterally revoked by the government. ACERP tried to sign an emergency contract. The government promised a call for proposals to create a new administrative contract no later than February 2020, but nothing was done.
In January 17, 2020, the special secretary of culture, Robert Alvim, was exonerated following protests for an official video broadcast on national television the day before with clear nazi content.
By the end of January, the Associação Brasileira de Preservação Audiovisual, ABPA (The Brazilian Association of Audiovisual Preservation) published an open letter in defense of the Cinemateca Brasileira (who was still without a valid administrative contract) and of the Cinemateca Capitólio (in Porto Alegre, which was threatened with privatization). The letter circulates worldwide.
In February 2020, one of the Cinemateca Brasileira vaults was flooded after torrential rains hit São Paulo. More than 100.000 DVDs of Brazilian films were destroyed by the water. There is speculation that film reels and equipment might have also been damaged, but no official report of the incident has yet been published.
It is only on March 4, 2020, that actor Regina Duarte, a Bolsonaro supporter without any previous experience in public administration, becomes the new special secretariat of culture, almost two months after Alvim’s exoneration.
In May, ACERP declared they had not received any resources from the government since the end of their contract, in December. Press reports inform that the electricity bill of the Cinemateca Brasileira had not been paid for months, and would potentially be suspended. Employees of the institution said their wages are also on hold.
On May 15, professionals connected to previous administrations of the Cinemateca Brasileira published an open letter in defense of the institution. The ABPA sends a notification to the government asking for an explanation.
In May 20, 2020, Regina Duarte was exonerated from her position as special secretary of culture. In a video, the actor appeared next to the president saying that she would now be responsible for the Cinemateca Brasileira so that she could stay close to her family in São Paulo. However, press reports questioned the feasibility of that measure, since the government does not hold any control over the direction of an institution whose administration has been transferred to a private entity.
On May 29, a meeting between ACERP and the federal government failed to reach an agreement. ACERP asked to be refunded for 11 million Brazilian Reais (US$2 million) for uncovered expenses relative to 2019. According to the press, ACERP had already spent another 4 million Brazilian Reais on the Cinemateca in 2020 which were also not covered by the government. Newspapers report that the government plans to break the contract and close the Cinemateca Brasileira altogether.
Following protests, the government publicly denied any plan to shut down the institution, and said it is considering reincorporating it to the State, even though it was never disconnected from the State to begin with. In this note to the press, no further plans were shared, and the growing debt, including the late wages, was left unaddressed.
Further press reports have stated that the government is no longer considering Regina Duarte for director of the Cinemateca Brasileira, but the rumors of the institution being shut down are persistent.
Unpaid since April 4, on June 4, the employees of Cinemateca Brasileira under contract with ACERP created an online crowdfunding campaign for emergency support.
Update on August 18, 2020
On June 10, Regina Duarte was officially dismissed. Without pay for three months, the workers of Cinemateca Brasileira went on strike on June 12.
Three days later, the Federal District Attorney’s Office in São Paulo filed a public lawsuit against the Federal Government asking for the urgent renewal of the administration contract with ACERP until the end of 2020.
On June 19, the actor Mário Frias was nominated as the new Special Secretary of Culture, despite his lack of previous experience in public administration, and was sworn in on the 23rd. That same day, Mário Frias and Marcelo Álvaro Antônio, the Minister of Tourism, who oversees the Special Secretariat of Culture, visited Cinemateca Brasileira and met with representatives of ACERP.
A document published on June 27 by the São Paulo Association of Filmmakers (Associação Paulista de Cineastas, APACI) states that, during a blackout in the area where the Cinemateca is located, the temperature control system of the archive was shut down for a few hours, because the institution’s generator was broken. The day before, the company responsible for the fire brigade that monitors the nitrate collection had sent their employees home due to lack of payment. The company responsible for the security of the institution threatened to do the same. That same month, eleven employees of Cinemateca Brasileira did not have their contracts renewed and were eventually dismissed.
On July 6, the crowdfunding campaign to support Cinemateca workers reached an end, having raised R$125,000 (roughly US$23,000). They remain without pay.
On July 8, Mário Frias sent a letter to ACERP demanding that Cinemateca Brasileira’s keys be returned to the government. The association refused to do that until the contract with the government was formally terminated.
On July 15, secretary Mário Frias and minister Álvaro Antônio published a video on a social network stating that employees of the Ministry of Tourism had been refused entry at Cinemateca Brasileira by ACERP the day before. Following an idea by a senator, the press published that the government was considering “transferring” the Cinemateca from São Paulo to Brasília, a possibility rejected by the mayor and city councilors of São Paulo. The terms of the donation of the Cinemateca Brasileira patrimony to the state prohibit the move, and the later the government rejected having that intention.
The mobilization to protect Cinemateca gathers support from city councilors, congresspeople and senators, and another lawsuit is submitted to the Attorney General.
On July 30, there was a public hearing at the Congress concerning the Cinemateca Brasileira with members of the government who stated their commitment to urgently renew contracts on basic services (security, cleaning, electricity). They also informed that a public call was being formulated to select a new company to run the Cinemateca Brasileira, estimating that the process would take three to four months. They did not share how the technical staff was supposed to be maintained until then.
On August 3, the Federal Justice System refused the demand by the Federal District Attorney’s Office in São Paulo for the renewal of the contract with ACERP, stating that the choice of how an institution was supposed to be administered belonged to the Executive. The District Attorney’s Office stated that they would appeal the decision.
A new letter from Mário Frias to ACERP stipulated August 7 as the final date to return the keys. That day, representatives of the government and members of the federal police department visited the institution to get the keys and make an inspection of the premises, which is monitored by members of the civil society, including the ABPA. The contract with ACERP is officially terminated. That same day, the contracts with the security company and the fire brigade were renewed.
On August 12, ACERP announced the dismissal of the 41 employees of Cinemateca Brasileira, who had not been paid wages for four months. The following day, ABPA held a meeting with the current Secretary of Audiovisual and staff. The meeting had been requested by the Association in order to gather more information concerning a request by the government to elaborate a public call for the inspection of the archive guarded by the Cinemateca Brasileira. ABPA reiterated that it was essential to keep the technical staff, and the government mentions the possibility of rehiring the staff using emergency funds that would be handled by the Sociedade Amigos da Cinemateca (SAC). According to the government, they are waiting for a letter from SAC to check on the viability of that plan. If that turns out impossible, the government promised solutions to hire a technical staff until the selection process for a new administration is finalized. As of now, Cinemateca Brasileira does not have a single employee in its technical staff. The government has not announced how they expect the knowledge of the institution to be transferred to new employees.
By: Luciana Corrêa de Araújo / film researcher
The importance of the Cinemateca Brasileira is not only for Brazilian cinema. It is also for cinema in Brazil, for cinema in the world. And for everyone.
This program organized by Cinémathèque Française, and available on the Henri website, is a tribute to the Il cinema Ritrovato festival that would be taking place now in Bologna. One of the films is the 1911 italian production “Tontolini é triste”.
A rare (perhaps unique?) copy of this film had been preserved in the collection of the Cinemateca Brasileira, which allowed the material to be duplicated, restored, exhibited.
That is why today we can watch this sensational comedy, a metalinguistic celebration of cinema that already in 1911 showed that cinema is the greatest entertainment and that watching movies takes people out of sadness – as confirmed once again in these crazy times pandemic and mismanagement.
In the presentation of the film program, the director of Cineteca de Bologna, Gianluca Farinelli, highlights the international importance of the work carried out by the cinematheques and, in particular, by the Cinemateca Brasileira, which is going through a very difficult moment.
By Inácio Araújo / Film critic / Nocaute
Defesa da Cinemateca Brasileira exige destemor à altura do desastre anunciado no audiovisual
by Eduardo Escorel
Document elaborated by the APBA (Brazilian Association of Audiovisual Preservation) in 2016, as a guide for policies and an important source for the discussion of preservation and work field in Brasil.
by Rafael de Luna
Professor do curso de cinema e audiovisual da Universidade Federal Fluminense (UFF).