b. October, 22, 1928 — São Paulo, Brazil

Nelson Pereira dos Santos, considered the initiator of modern Brazilian cinema in the 1950s, is also its most literary filmmaker. In fact, of his 25 features, 15 were based on literary work from Brazilian writers. This has assured him a privileged place as a member of the prestigious Brazilian Academy of Letters; never before has a Brazilian filmmaker been immortalized in this way. (1)

Santos is the most important living Brazilian filmmaker. In his quintessential career, his films have influenced directors and cinephiles for over 50 years. Of the most influential Brazilian films of the past five decades, at least one was directed by Santos in each decade. These influential films include Rio, 40 Graus (Rio, 100 Degrees F., 1955), Vidas Secas (Barren Lives, 1963), Como Era Gostoso o MeuFrancês (How Tasty Was My Little Frenchman, 1971), Memórias do Cárcere (1984), and Casa-Grande e Senzala (2000). Santos’ impact on Latin American cinema cannot be overstated. For critics and cinephiles all over the world, Santos’ early films are milestones in the emergence of modern post-war cinema. Inspired by neorealism, his films from the 1950s and 1960s depict the brutal reality of life in the favelados (slums)found in cities such as Rio de Janeiro, or of retirantes (migrants) fleeing the famine in the drought-stricken northeastern region of Brazil.

Throughout the last five decades, Santos produced and directed films of differing genres and themes. From documentaries to fiction films, he always keeps a distinguished sense of cinema’s role in society, maintains an independent authorship, and achieves an innovative and creative approach to exploring Brazilian culture.

Since 1965, Santos has transmitted his knowledge and experience as a filmmaker through his role as a professor of cinema in universities and institutions in Brazil—University of Brasilia and Federal Fluminense University—and the United States—Columbia University, UCLA, and Sundance Institute. He has won prestigious honours in Brazil, Cuba and Portugal, as well as many international awards in film festivals such as Cannes, Berlin, Venice, Edinburgh, Genoa, Valladolid, Havana, London, Los Angeles, New York, Milan, among others. Also, he has been honoured by retrospectives of his work all over the world. In France, he received the distinguished titles of Commander of l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres and Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur.

In the 1960s, Glauber Rocha, the most famous member of Cinema Novo generation, claimed Santos as the mentor for the movement. More recently, Walter Salles, referring to Santos’ humanistic approach in the depiction of people’s struggles, stated that through his films Santos has taught him the concept of “human geography” in cinema.

From Chanchada to the emergence of Cinema Novo

The cinema is a cultural expression, therefore, no better and no worse than any other, it exists within its context, expressing the life of that society where it was born. It is a modern world, that is, I think, the backbone of the culture. -Santos

Santos’ early years as a cinephile were during the years of World War II, when mostly American films dominated Brazilian screens. He first encountered European films after the war—such as the documentaries by Dutch filmmaker Joris Ivens. At the time, though, he was mostly struck by Italian neorealism, which ultimately became the most important influence on his films. While he was still a student, he started his filmmaking career with a documentary entitled Juventude in 1949. In the early 1950s, he worked as an assistant director in the popular Brazilian comedy genre called chanchada. Those films include O Saci (Rodolfo Nanni, 1951), Agulha no Palheiro (Alex Vianny, 1953), and Balança Mas Não Cai (Paulo Wanderley, 1953). For many years he served as a reporter-cinematographer for cine-journals and the newspaper “Jornal do Brasil”, which offered him the possibility to travel. This experience, while allowing him to improve his documentary skills, also enabled him to get to know the different social classes from distant regions of Brazil previously unfamiliar to him.

In interviews, Santos has stated that neorealism was more a lesson in how to produce films in a country without financial resources rather than a lesson in aesthetic style. Filmmakers need not become dependent on complicated productions and large studios, or big budgets and the employment of famous or internationally known actors. For Santos, filmmaking was revealed as just the camera and the people in front of it. Hence, Glauber Rocha’s famous phrase: “a camera in the hand and an idea in the head.”

Santos’ directorial feature debut came in 1955 with the internationally well-acclaimed Rio chronicle entitled Rio, 40 Graus. The film depicts stories of quotidian life in Rio, such as the boys from the favela who sell peanuts at Copacabana beach. Santos is considered the filmmaker who brought to light the favela that Brazil and the world had never seen on screen before. Today, the favela is one of the landmark locations of Brazilian cinema.

Santos is concerned with portraying a time and a place in a free and independent way that interacts with the world, an approach that he admits derives from his journalistic career. Thus, the documentary style is central to Rio, 40 Graus and Rio, Zona Norte (1957) in the way they depict the daily reality of Rio. (2) In an attempt to capture this reality, Santos doesn’t mask incoherence or paradoxes by fictional effects. The role of the documentary in his films is just the opposite—to show this inability and to reaffirm its commitment to reality.

In 1963 Glauber Rocha proclaimed that if the camera in Rio, 40 Graus narrates earnestly and explains the tragedies, the miseries and the contradictions of the great city, the camera in Rio, Zona Norte documents, questions, exposes, accumulates data and studies the environment. (3) Rocha considered these two films the predecessors of Cinema Novo. They show the people for the first time on Brazilian screens rather than the conventional representation of characters depicted in commercial cinema, such as in the popular comedies of chanchada or in the pseudo-classical Hollywood films produced at the Vera Cruz studio. (4) As Gilles Deleuze observed in Cinema 2: The Time-Image, one of the principle aims of Cinema Novo was, precisely, to denounce the absence of the people in cinema. (5)

Cinema Novo is considered the most important and influential film movement of Brazil. It started in the early 1960s influenced by Italian post-war neorealism and the French New Wave, and was concurrent with the rise of “new” cinema movements internationally. The principles informing the Cinema Novo movement are now well known; film historian Ismail Xavier summarizes them as follows: a modern style of film d’auteur, handheld camera work, simplicity of production, raw “Brazilian” light without staged effects in revealing reality, a low budget compatible with national resources, and commitment to social transformation. (6)

Cinema Novo was also influenced by the short documentary film, Aruanda, made by a group of young journalists and students, including Linduarte Noronha, in 1959 in the state of Paraíba in northeastern Brazil. Aruanda provoked an enthusiastic reaction from critics and Brazilian intellectuals. The French critic Sylvie Pierre stated that it was one of the first films to be launched around the question of the interrelation between the poverty of production and the poverty of the people. (7) Brazilian cinema exists in a sub-national economy, and allowing this to show through as a quality and a truth is not a failure of national cinema as it permits accuracy and originality of the gaze. The characteristic techniques—photography, framing, and editing—conflict with the arid conditions and poverty of the sertão (backlands), exaggerating the features of this region, while the inexperience of its directors has influenced subsequent young Brazilian filmmakers.

Aruanda shows the formation of Talhado, the first village ever founded by ex-slaves in the sertão. In the movie there are two historic moments: the establishment of the village at the beginning of the century, and its current organization, where people work at manufacturing ceramic vases. The first part of the film is fictional and the second part is documentary. The political and social discourse of the film is present in the narrator’s final words: “The life in Talhado is primitive. It exists physically and geographically but not within the institutions.”

From the years 1963-64, three films that tell stories from the sertão region are considered the consecration of Cinema Novo: Deus e o Diabo na Terra do Sol (Black God, White Devil) by Glauber Rocha, Os Fuzis (The Guns) by Ruy Guerra, and Vidas Secas (Barren Lives) by Nelson Pereira dos Santos. Thus, the sertão was enshrined as an ideal space for the social and aesthetic discourse of the Cinema Novo. Key features of the movement combine the aesthetics of poverty (aesthetics of hunger) with folk stories, the poetic with the political. According to Paulo Emilio Salles Gomes, one of the most influential critics of the time, the most important meaning of the Cinema Novo to Brazilian cinema is that it reflects and creates a visual image and sound coherent to the absolute majority of the Brazilian people.

Cinema Novo broke with the aesthetics of classical American cinema from the fifties. Cinema Novo opted for a new design aesthetic in a process they called the “decolonization of the image and content” of films. This involved the handheld camera, narrative text, purposefully contrasted photography, rough editing, diegetic music, direct sound, improvisation, and free dialogue. For filmmaker Carlos Diegues, the project of Cinema Novo is very simple, it can be summarized in the proposition: transforming film techniques of the Brazilian cinema, and changing the world.

According to Glauber Rocha, the most renowned filmmaker of the movement, the author is most responsible for the truth: the aesthetic is an ethic and its mise en scene is political. In 1965, on the occasion of a retrospective of Latin American cinema in Italy, Rocha wrote the manifesto “Aesthetics of Hunger.” According to this text, Cinema Novo is not only an artistic manifesto but also a political and social statement:

“The European observer is only interested in artistic creation from the underdeveloped world to the extent that it satisfies his nostalgia for primitivism. (…) Cinema Novo: more than primitive and revolutionary, it is an aesthetic of violence. Here lies the starting point for the colonizer to understand the existence of the colonized. (…) There had to be a first dead policeman for the French to see an Algerian. (…) Latin hunger is not, then, just an alarming symptom: it is the very nerve of its own society. Here lies the tragic originality of Cinema Novo for the world cinema: our originality is our hunger, and our greatest woe is that, because it is felt, this hunger is not understood.” (8)

Glauber Rocha believes that violence is the ideal way to make the world realize the existence of an underdeveloped culture, such as Brazilian culture. Cinema Novo is the result of a politics of colonization that may trigger an independent movement toward a unique and new approach. As Rocha declared, “Our originality is our hunger.”

The movement toward a Brazilian culture independent from the culture of the colonizers is an old concern for Brazilian artists. The best-known attempt at this is the modernist movement of 1922. The writer Oswald de Andrade published a text entitled “Manifesto Antropófogo”, where he urged overthrowing the rule of civilized society with a form of “cultural cannibalism”. As he says: “Only anthropophagism unites us. Socially. Economically. Philosophically. (…) Tupi or not tupi, that is the question (…) I asked a man what Law was. He told me it was the guarantee of the practice of the possible. This man was called Galli Matias. I ate him.” (9) Cannibalism is the weapon of the colonized. The violence of the colonizer against the colonized is now reversed. Brazilian culture will be born from these movements. It will emerge from its own revolutionary violence.

One of Santos most internationally famous films, How Tasty Was My Little Frenchman, was based on this manifesto, which at that time was retaken by a new cultural movement called “Tropicalism”. American critics considered the film a black comedy about European colonialism as well as a bitter historical commentary. However, the film reveals much more about Brazilian culture and political values than these foreign critics had the ability to perceive. For instance, the film provides a strong political reaction against the military dictatorship in Latin America financed by the United States. From the 1964-1984, the dictatorship had urged national filmmakers to suppress any kind of socio-political manifestations. While the film was set in the 16th century, when the Europeans were disputing the colonization of Brazil, it is also drawing parallels with what the Americans were doing in South America in the 1960s.

Set in the year 1594, the film opens with the reading of a letter by French conqueror Nicholas Durand de Villegaignon, who was sent for the purpose of founding on Brazilian shores an empire that would be called “Antarctic France”. A French adventurer with knowledge of artillery is taken prisoner by the indigenous Tupinambás tribe. According to their culture, it should eat the enemy to acquire all of its powers, such as the knowledge on how to use gunpowder and cannons. With the exception of the letter reading, the film is all spoken in the Tupi language. Humberto Mauro, the great filmmaker of early Brazilian cinema, was responsible for translating the script’s dialogue into the indigenous Tupi language spoken by the actors.

Writing with the camera

When I film, I mean the physical act of writing, shooting and editing (when we touch the film itself), in this moment, I think I am able to change something in the world around me.


For a great part of his career, Santos has dedicated his time to writing. He has written practically all the screenplays to his films, the large majority of which were drawn from literary works by Brazilian authors. Santos’ adaptations of famous novels became essential for realizing the worlds in these books. This is the case with Barren Lives, written by the acclaimed and successful writer Graciliano Ramos. Critics claimed that Santos’ version improved on the qualities of the novel because cinematically he was able to bring to life the particular atmosphere of the sertão region with greater immediacy and poignancy than was possible in literary form.

Shot in natural settings in quasi documentary mode, the open space in Barren Lives, its slow time, the silences, the monotonous sound of vibrating oxcarts, and human drama in and at the center of everything, is all narrated in a simple and bare way. What impresses most in Barren Lives is the innovative narrative use of ambient sounds and noises working musically to punctuate the unfolding of the sequences. All these features are accentuated by Luis Carlos Barreto “participative” (10) photography without filters, while getting the most from the interior drama of light and shade. This is reminiscent of the high contrast of northeast Brazilian woodcuts, photographic elements already accentuated in Aruanda. With Barren Lives, Brazilian cinema demonstrates that fiction and reality overlap, intertwine and become the raw material of a fundamental aspect of Brazilian authenticity.

Santos took different cinematic approaches to the many stories adapted from literature. His first encounter with adaptation was Boca de Ouro (1962) based on a theatrical text from the enigmatic and middle class chronicle writer, Nelson Rodrigues. The light comedy El Justicero (1967), based on a work by João Bethencourt, about a playboy and surfer from the southern zone of Rio de Janeiro, was understood by public and critics alike as a stab at a more mainstream cinema product. He followed it with Fome de Amor: Você Nunca Tomou Sol Inteiramente Nua? (1968), based on a work by Guilherme de Figueiredo, it is one of Santos’ strangest and most radical films. The film depicts a group of youths under the influence of disparate ideologies. It was nearly all improvised and the director would write the dialogue and the scenes as filming progressed. In accordance with Alexandre Astruc’s concept of “la caméra stylo”, Santos considers the camerawork in this film acts as a pen.

In Azyllo Muito Louco (1970), set in an asylum, Santo’s used Machado de Assis’ 1898 novel The Alienist as the basis to create an allegorical commentary on Brazilian political history. Given that Cinema Novo’s political orientation was libertarian and socialist, their films were becoming increasing metaphorical and allegorical in an attempt to circumvent censorship. However, as happens with any metaphorical discourse pushed to the edge, the analogies in some films of Cinema Novo had become so obtuse and fragmented that the public could no longer comprehend their allusions. As perhaps happened in the case of Azyllo Muito Louco.

O Amuleto de Ogum (1974), based on Francisco Santos, was memorable for Santos because the main character, a mystic bandit, was played by his son, Ney Sant’Anna. In this film, Santos submerged himself in the rich and intense world of Brazilian mysticism and the popular religions of the lower classes. In 1984, with his second experience of adapting a Graciliano Ramos’ novel, Memórias do Cárcere, Santos approached Ramos’ work in a completely different way than he had in Barren Lives. In Memoirs he transposes the novel to the screen almost in a literal sense, not deviating much from the original story.As his last feature length adaptations, Santos adapted the work of two major authors, Jubiabá (1987) based on Jorge Amado and A Terceira Margem do Rio (1994) based on Guimarães Rosa. Neither film was well received by the critics or the public on their respective releases, however, they were produced in a period when Brazilian cinema was experiencing a major crisis.

Documentaries and Brazilian cinema revival – the 90s and 2000s

The only commitment of documentary is with the reality that a filmmaker wants to show, or rather, to interpret. Today, I can tell you that documentary is much more fun than fiction. Santos

The modern history of Brazilian cinema has been strongly influenced by the rise of democracy after the disintegration of the hegemony of the military dictatorship that ruled for twenty years. The new democratic government elected in the early 1990s suspended all financial funding that supported film production in Brazil. The result was catastrophic, the average number of productions dropping to one film per year, occupying 0.05% of the domestic market. Many established and emerging Brazilian filmmakers migrated to television where they directed telenovelas, TV commercials, and documentaries.

In 1995, after the popular impeachment of the government, special laws were created that gave tax credits to private companies to invest in local audiovisual productions. Since then, Brazilian cinema has experienced one of the most remarkable revivals within Latin American countries.

The Brazilian cinema of the period between 1995-2002 is often recognized as the “Cinema da Retomada” (“Revival Cinema”). (11) This designation is controversial because researchers and filmmakers cannot come to a consensus on what the word “revival” actually means. It could simply mean the revival of film production; or it could indicate a “revival” as in a social-aesthetic movement—as with the Cinema Novo in the 1960s—or it could imply the revival of Cinema Novo itself. Some filmmakers refuse to talk about a recent cinematic movement in Brazil—whether this be a “revival” or any other movement—because there was no particular group aesthetic or shared ideas. Many filmmakers were isolated and produced their films independently.

Despite arguments to the contrary, the use of this term “revival” has been generalized and freely adopted. Fifteen years or so after the extraordinary recovery of Brazilian cinema, we should instead rethink the term “revival” and wonder what this period was able to revive, and we should also ask what remains of this trajectory.

This period of Brazilian film production has not proposed any kind of social or aesthetic break with the history of Brazilian cinema. In fact, since 1940s there has been a continuation of the tradition of focusing on both Brazil’s mythical places and spaces, such as the sertão and the favelas of the cities. In 1941, with the founding of the Atlântida studio, a manifesto was produced stating the need to shoot Brazilian subjects in order to create the existence of a national reality on screen. Those ideas were repeated in Glauber Rocha’s manifesto “Aesthetic of Hunger” in the 1960s and restated in Walter Salles’ interviews at the time of the launch of Central do Brasil (1998). This implies a continuation of a tradition rather than a break.

However, linked to this national commitment, Glauber Rocha advocated the complete independence over the film budget. Only then, he argued, can filmmaker auteurs have complete control over their work. This independence of filmmakers is only possible if the film is not tied to its commercial success. Only in this case can their authorship be authentic and reflect the historical moment of a society. This position of the author in Cinema Novo is the complete opposite of that taken by Retomada’s filmmakers. For the latter, the commercial success of a film means regaining the public’s attention and trust, and the box-office becomes their main objective.

Brazilian filmmakers today are less convinced about their socio-political position on national issues than the filmmakers of Cinema Novo were at the time. This is possibly due to the replacement of that ideological discourse about national identity by what was termed the “rhetoric of the winner” in the audiovisual battle led by the Brazilian TV network Globo. (12)This television channel now shows its version of the hegemonic national question in its industrialized popular telenovelas. Many movies now tend to reutilize the same actors, authors, producers to reproduce the ideas and style of telenovelas for commercial reasons in order to attract larger audiences while incorporating their ideology.

In the early 1990s, Santos directed two less-inspired films, A Terceira Margem do Rio,based on three short stories by Guimarães Rosa, and Cinema de Lágrimas (1995), based on Sylvia Oroz’s book. In the latter film, he revisited Latin American film production of the last century. This project was commissioned by the French-German television channel Arte.

After these two not-well-received feature films, Santos also participated in the rebirth of Brazilian cinema in its more enthusiastic and innovative sector—the documentary, which became his main interest. At the time, the documentary had a stellar rise in Brazil as a result of the low cost of digital audiovisual production, and its audience increased considerably. The current production of documentaries has created powerful images, unexpected approaches and unique shooting strategies. These characteristics have managed to maintain experimental qualities and to reestablish authorship in Brazilian cinema. Also, documentary filmmakers have exerted a strong influence on fiction films which result in revealing the Brazilian socio-economic situation.

During the so-called “revival years”, Santos directed several documentaries for television, including Meu Compadre, Zè Ketti (2001), Raizes do Brazil– Uma Cinebiografia de Sérgio Buarque de Holanda (2003), and Casa-Grande e Senzala; and in 2005, his one feature film entitled Brasília 18% (a reference to the humidity of the capital city of Brazil).

Casa-Grande e Senzala is a series of four episodes, based on and about the book of the same name written by Gilberto Freyre, published in 1933. The first episode (“Gilberto Freyre, O Cabral Moderno”) recounts the life of the author and reenacts the origins of the book. In the second episode (“A Cunhã, Mãe da Família Brasileira”), the narrator recalls the participation of indigenous women in the formation of the Brazilian family, and refers to the peculiarities that distinguish the indigenous encounters with the Portuguese, the Spaniards or the English in America. In the third episode (“O Português, O Colonizador dos Trópicos”), the narrator notes that the Portuguese treated slaves badly, however, of the European colonizers, the Portuguese fraternized more fully with indigenous and black population. And in the last episode (“O Escravo Negro na Vida Sexual e de Família do Brasileiro”), the narrator examines the different African cultures transplanted to Brazil. What fascinated Santos in this project was how Freyre worked with facts. In his book, Freyre mentioned all the writers and travelers who had written about Brazilian culture and society till that point.

The documentary Português: a língua do Brasil (“Portuguese: the language of Brazil”, literal translation) is a homage to the ABL (Brazilian Academy of Letters). Santos staged meetings with colleagues in different precincts of the modern (Palace Austregésilo de Athayde) and traditional (Petit Trianon) settings of the building. They speak of the need to “keep the youth” of language and its nature as a “living organism.” The interviewees discuss the importance of the “cultured norm” and the relationship between regional colloquialisms and the official language.

Many years earlier in 1966, Santos directed, together with the first students of UNB (University of Brasilia), the short film Fala Brasília (“Speak Brasília”), an experimental documentary about the various dialects assembled in the new capital. According to the critic Carlos Alberto Mattos, Português: a língua do Brasil is a counterpoint to that vibrant film made in Brasilia. The filmmaker Santos, who brought popular expressions into Brazilian cinema, paradoxically, now encourages reasons for upholding the cultured norms of official language.

Following his passion for documenting Brazilian culture, Santos’ subsequent project was a documentary depicting the intimate life of his late friend, the singer-composer Antonio Carlos Jobim. Entitled Tom Jobim: um homem iluminado (2010), this was his second documentary on Jobim; the first, A Música Segundo Tom Jobim, was made for television in 1984. In this film, he intended to reutilize parts of the previous material, but with the focus mainly on Jobim’s family. Jobim’s life is recounted by his three ex-wives: Helena narrates his childhood, Tereza describes the beginning of his professional life, and Ana covers the late years when he dedicated himself to the preservation of the Mata Atlântica coastal forest of Brazil.

Santos’ remarkable five-decades career has had its high and low points. In the early part of his career, which was influenced by the neorealism and, at the same time, censured by the government, he was, arguably at his most creative, innovative, and courageous in the way he presented and treated his subjects and depicted his characters. However, his stylistic and technical approach did change over the years, and not always for the better. Nevertheless, even while his latter films seem to have lost those strong qualities of filming daily life that distinguished his earlier films, he still continues to follow his passion for realism and his quest for new ways to tell a Brazilian story.


  1. Nelson Pereira dos Santos was elected to the Brazilian Academy of Letters on March 9, 2006 and sworn in on July 17, 2006.
  2. To complete the Rio trilogy, Nelson Pereira dos Santos produced O Grande Momento (“The Grand Moment”) directed by Roberto Santos in São Paulo in 1958.
  3. The studio Vera Cruz (1949-1954) was founded in São Paulo to compete with the high technical quality Hollywood films. Several directors and technicians came from Italy and England, such as Adolfo Celi, Alberto Cavalcanti, Tom Payne, and Luciano Salce. Their most famous production was O Cangaceiro (The Bandit of Brazil),directed by Lima Barreto, released in 1953.
  4. http://www.tempoglauber.com.br/english/t_estetica.html
  5. Gilles Deleuze, Cinema 2: The Time-Image. Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Haberjam (Trs). Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1986.
  6. Ismail Xavier, Allegories of Underdevelopment: Aesthetics and Politics in Modern Brazilian Cinema. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997.
  7. Pierre, Sylvie, Glauber Rocha. Paris: Cahiers du Cinéma, 1987.
  8. http://www.tempoglauber.com.br/english/t_estetica.html
  9. Oswald de Andrade, Obras completas VI. Do Pau-Brasil à antropofagia e às utopias. Manifestos, teses de concursos e ensaios. Rio de Janeiro: Civilização Brasileira, 1970, p. 11.
  10. V. Lima, “Em busca de uma fotografia participante”, in Deus e o diabo na terra do sol. Ed. Glauber Rocha. Rio de Janeiro: Civilização Brasileira, 1965.
  11. It seems safe to say—based on economic, aesthetic and production performance criteria—that Cidade de Deus (City of God, 2002), directed by Fernando Meirelles and Kátia Lund and produced by Walter Salles, started a new era in Brazilian cinema.
  12. Ismail Xavier, “Brazilian Cinema in the 1990s: The Unexpected Encounter and the Resentful Character”, in L. Nagib (Ed.) The New Brazilian Cinema, London: I.B. Tauris, 2003, p. 41.


Director and Screenwriter

1949 – Juventude (documentary)

1955 – Rio, 40 Graus (Rio, 100 Degrees F.)

1957 – Rio, Zona Norte

1961 – Mandacaru Vermelho

1962 – Boca de Ouro

1963 – Vidas Secas (Barren Lives)

1967 – El Justicero

1968 – Fome de Amor: Você Nunca Tomou Sol Inteiramente Nua?

1970 – Azyllo Muito Louco

1971 – Como Era Gostoso o Meu Francês (1971, How Tasty Was My Little Frenchman)

1972 – Quem é Beta? (Pas de violence entre nous)

1974 – O Amuleto de Ogum

1977 – Tenda dos Milagres

1980 – “O Ladrão” (segment in Insônia)

1980 – Na Estrada da Vida

1982 – A Missa do Galo

1984 – Memórias do Cárcere

1987 – Jubiabá

1994 – A Terceira Margem do Rio

1995 – Cinema de Lágrimas

2001 – Meu Compadre, Zé Ketti (documentary)

2003 – Raízes do Brasil – Uma Cinebiografia de Sérgio Buarque de Holanda (documentary)

2005 – Brasília 18%

2007 – Português: a Línguado Brasil (documentary)

2010 – Tom Jobim: um homem iluminado (documentary)

2013 – A Luz do Tom (documentary)

Director For Television Series

1980 – Cinema Rio (Episode: Cinelândia)

1983 – Mundo Mágico

1984 – A Música Segundo Tom Jobim

1984 – Capiba

1985 – Bahia de Todos os Santos

1985 – Eu sou o samba

1987 – Super Gregório

2000 – Casa-Grande e Senzala


1950 – Atividades Políticas em São Paulo

1958 – Soldados do Fogo

1962 – Ballet do Brasil

1965 – O Rio de Machado de Assis

1965 – Um Moço de 74 anos

1966 – Cruzada ABC

1966 – Fala Brasília

1970 – Alfabetização

1971 – O Clube do Risca-Faca

1972 – Jornalismo e Independência

1973 – Cidade Laboratório de Humboldt 73

1978 – Nosso Mundo (“Repórteres de TV”)

1982 – A Arte Fantástica de Mario Gruber

1986 – La Drôle de Guerre

Actor or Interviewee

1961 – Mandacaru Vermelho (dir. Nelson Pereira dos Santos)

1968 – Jardim de Guerra (dir. Neville d’Almeida)

1971 – Matei Por Amor (dir. Miguel Faria Jr.)

1971 – Nelson Filma: O Trajeto do Cinema Independente noBrasil (dir. Luiz Carlos Lacerda)

1978 – Nelson Pereira dos Santos Saúda o Povo e Pede Passagem (dir. Ana Carolina)

1981 – Um Filme para Cinema (dir. Luelane Corrêa)

1991 – Que Filme Tu Vai Fazer? (dir. Denoy de Oliveira)

1991 – Que Viva Glauber! (dir. Aurélio Mechiles)

1997 – For All, O Trampolim da Vitória (dir. Buza Ferraz and Luiz Carlos Lacerda)

1998 – A Mãe (dir. Fernando Belens and Umbelino Brasil)

1998-2000 – O Maior (dir. Luiz Fernando Petzhold)

1999 – Encontro Marcado com a Arte: Nelson Pereira dos Santos (dir. Jorge Brennand Jr.)

2000 – O Dia da Caça (dir. Alberto Graça)

2001 – Onde a Terra Acaba (dir. Sérgio Machado)

2003 – Viva Sapato! (Luiz Carlos Lacerda)

2004 – Glauber o Filme, Labirinto do Brasil (dir. Silvio Tendler)

2005 – Christo Redemptor (dir. Bel Noronha)

2007 – Oscar Niemeyer: A vida é um sopro (dir. Fabiano Maciel)

2007 – Um cineasta a procura de seu filme (dir. Umberto Martins and Caio Martins)

2008 – Sambando nas Brasas, Morô? (dir. Elizeu Ewald)

2008 – Retratos Brasileiros: Nelson Pereira dos Santos (dir. Sérgio Rossini)


1958 – O Grande Momento (dir. Roberto Santos)

1965 – A Hora e a Vez de Augusto Matrag (dir. Roberto Santos)

1971 – Mãos Vazias (dir. Luiz Carlos Lacerda)

1974 – Biblioteca Nacional (dir. José Alberto Nobreporto)

1975 – Aventuras Amorosas de um Padeiro (dir. Waldyr Onofre)

1978 – A Dama do Lotação (dir. Neville d’Almeida)

1979 – Dr. Heráclito Sobral Pinto, Profissão Advogado (dir. Tuna Espinheira)

1981 –Cinema Rio (Documentary TV Series) Episodes: “A Batalha dos Guararapes” (dir. Zelito Viana); “Botequim” (dir. David Neves); “Caso de Polícia” (dir. Maurice Capovilla); “Mangueira” (dir. Neville d’Almeida); Boates (dir. Tereza Trautman), among others.

1983 – Suíte Bahia (dir. Agnaldo Siri Azevedo)

1990 – Sonhei com você (dir. Ney Sant’Anna)


1961 – Barravento (dir. Glauber Rocha)

1962 – O Menino de Calça Branca (dir. Sérgio Ricardo)

1964 – Maioria Absoluta (dir. Leon Hirszman)

1964 – Pedreira de São Diogo (Cinco Vezes Favela) (dir. Leon Hirszman)

1968 – Cantores e Trovadores (dir. Evandro de Almeida Mauro)

1972 – A Fazenda (dir. Jean-Louis Lacerda Soares)

1985 – A Nova Era (dir. Nilo Sérgio)

Assistant Director

1951 – O Saci (dir. Rodolfo Nanni)

1952 – Aglaia (dir. Ruy Santos) (incomplete)

1953 – Agulha no Palheiro (dir. Alex Vianny)

1953 – Balança Mas Não Cai (dir. Paulo Wanderley)

1955 – Sonho de Outono (dir. José Carlos Burle)

Selected Bibliography

Andrade, Oswald de. Obras completas VI. Do Pau-Brasil à antropofagia e às utopias. Manifestos, teses de concursos e ensaios. Rio de Janeiro: Civilização Brasileira, 1970.

Bernadet, J-C. O autor no cinema. São Paulo: Edusp/Brasiliense, 1994.

Deleuze, G. Cinema 2. L’Image-Temps. Paris: Seuil, 1985.

Fabris, M. Nelson Pereira dos Santos: Um olhar neo-realista? São Paulo: Edusp, 1994.

Johnson, R. and Stam, R. (Eds.) Brazilian cinema. NewYork: Columbia University Press, 1995.

Maier-Schoen, P., “Das filmische Gewissen”, in Film-Dienst (Cologne), 12 March 1996.

Monteiro, R. F. “Nelson Pereira dos Santos”, in P.A. Paranagua, Le cinéma brésilien. Paris: Centre Georges Pompidou, 1987.

Mraz, J. “What’s Popular in the New Latin American Cinema?”, in Studies in Latin American Popular Culture, no. 7, 1988.

Oroz, S. Melodrama: o Cinema de Lágrimas da América Latina. RJ, Rio Fundo Editora, 1992.

Papa, D. (Org.) Nelson Pereira dos Santos: Uma Cinebiografia do Brasil. Rio de Janeiro: Onze do Sete, 2005.

Paranagua, P. A., “Nelson Pereira dos Santos: Trajectoire d’un dépouillement,” in Positif (Paris), December 1985.

Peña, R., “After Barren Lives: The Legacy of Cinema Novo,” in Reviewing Histories, edited by Coco Fusco. Buffalo/New York, 1987.

Pierre, Sylvie. Glauber Rocha. Paris: Cahiers du Cinéma, 1987.

Ramos, P.R. “Nelson Pereira dos Santos”, Estudos Avançados 21 (59), 2007, 323-352. Accessed July 25, 2010. http://www.scielo.br/pdf/ea/v21n59/a25v2159.pdf

Rocha, G. Revolução do cinema novo. São Paulo: Cosac Naify, 2004.

Rocha, G. Revisão Crítica do Cinema Brasileiro. São Paulo: Cosac Naify, 2003.

Sadlier, D. J. Nelson Pereira dos Santos. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2003.

Salem, H. Nelson Pereira dos Santos: o sonho possível do cinema brasileiro. Rio de Janeiro: Record, 1996.

Salles-Gomes , P. E. “Cinema: A Trajectory within Underdevelopment”, in R. Johnson and R. Stam (Eds.) Brazilian cinema. NewYork: Columbia University Press, 1995, 244-255.

Santos, N. P. dos. Três vezes Rio: Rio 40 graus, Rio Zona Norte e O amuleto de Ogum.Rio de Janeiro: Rocco, 1999.

Stam, R. Tropical Multiculturalism: A Comparative History of Race in Brazilian Cinema and Culture. Durham: DukeUniversity Press, 1997.

Xavier, I. Allegories of Underdevelopment: Aesthetics and Politics in Modern Brazilian Cinema. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997.


“La comète Grierson en Amérique latine,” in Positif, June 1994.

“Cinéma de larmes,” an interview with Sylvie Pierre, in Cahiers du Cinéma, June 1995.

Roda Viva. TV Cultura. São Paulo, February 21, 1994 [Portuguese]


Roda Viva. TV Cultura. São Paulo, March 2, 1999 [Portuguese]


Selected Web Resources

Encontro Marcado [English]


Official Site [Portuguese]


Brazilian Academy of Letters [Portuguese]


Brazilian Cinemathèque [Portuguese]


About The Author

Hudson Moura is a Brazilian-Canadian professor in film at Ryerson University, Canada. He is guest editor of a special issue focusing on Brazilian contemporary cinema for the Université de Montréal’s journal Cinémas (2011), and the film programmer of BRAFFv-Brazilian Film and TV Festival of Toronto.

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