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Nelson Pereira dos Santos.

 

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"Making Films
With the People"
by Nelson Pereira dos Santos arrow.

Lifetime Achievement Award 2006
Nelson Pereira dos Santos

The Third Bunch of Reality
By José Carlos Avellar

A single picture, to present the question: right in the beginning of The Amulet of Ogum (O amuleto de Ogum) a blind singer points out that he will tell the true story of Brazil: "A true story that I have just invented now". The film says in very simple words that cinema is not only a way of showing life as it is, but also as a critical mirror that freely reinvents the true story, with the aim to be more faithful to how we understand and feel what we see.

Another picture, to see how to construct such a mirror: at the end of Memories of Prison (Memórias do cárcere) the writer Graciliano, taking notes on a small piece of paper, is surrounded by others prisoners that came to tell him stories, to be written in the book he is doing. Sitting on the ground of the prison, seeing and hearing the others, learning from them the stories he must tell and how he should tell them, the writer acts like the special mirror used by the blind singer of The Amulet of Ogum.     

Memories of Prison.
space.
"Memories of Prison"

Making a montage of these two images brings us to the cinema of Nelson Pereira dos Santos, to the central line of a work made with an idea in the head and a mirror in the hand — to learn directly from the Brazilian popular expressions and stories how to make films: from the favelas and suburbs of Rio de Janeiro (Rio, Northern Tone / Rio, Zona Norte) to the satellite cities and the streets full of cars in Brasília (The Third Bank of the River / A terceira margem do rio, Brasília 18%); jumping to the future (Where is Beta? / Quem é beta?) or coming back to the time of the European arrival (How Tasty Was My Little Frenchman / Como era gostoso meu francês); from the Sertão, the dry heart of the land, (Vidas secas), to the sea (Tent of Miracles / Tenda dos milagres), trough the road of life (My Buddy Zé Ketti / Zé Rico and Milionário na estrada da vida).

Vidas Secas.
space.
"Vidas Secas "

What we celebrate here is this trajectory, started fifty years ago, with the opening of Rio, 40 Degrees (Rio, 40 graus) — or even a little before, with some articles where he points out that to make films one needs to know the Brazilian conditions and to work together with the people: technical issues and grammatical rules do not make films, the knowledge of the Brazilian reality, yes.

Nelson uses to says, (like in Making Film With the People, a text from the end of the seventies, between The Amulet of Ogum and Memories of Prison), that the filmmaker observes reality surrounded by various persons. Each one of those persons contributes technically and artistically to construct and transmit the result of these observations, a critical vision of the reality. He says also that the Brazilian film director is the man who invents everything: he invents the producer, invents the story, will also be the distributor and the publicist of his own film, he invents even the reality, and through this trajectory, he conquers his freedom and at same time the freedom of all the people that, with him in the ground of the prison, entered the picture.

This FIPRESCI Lifetime Achievement Award is in fact been given to a filmmaker that conquered the freedom learning from the people. He conquered the freedom for himself and for the entire Brazilian cinema escaping from the prison of technical and industrial rules and telling the true story as he just decided to invent it right now.

José Carlos Avellar
© FIPRESCI 2006

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