Gerson Tavares (1926-2021) made only a few films in a very rich period in Brazil’s history, circling around yet outside of the 1960s political preoccupations of Cinema Marginal, Cinema Novo, the popular eroticism of pornochanchada, and the intermediary artistic movement of Tropicália.1 While distinctly Brazilian – in addition to two features, he made some short documentaries focused on the physical and structural architecture of local cities – his work does not fit easily into the above categories, and he is not a filmmaker who is known widely outside of his native country. Hopefully, due to a recently available new restoration of his second feature film Antes, o Verão (1968), that is about to change. 

When I was putting together the program “Now! Crime, Politics, and Revolution in 1960s Brazilian Cinema” for the Melbourne Cinémathèque, I was in contact with archivist Rafael de Luna Freire, a professor at the Universidade Federal Fluminense, to arrange details and finalise screening material for Tavares’s film. I got in touch with him again for some background on its reputation and the restoration project, and we spoke over Zoom in late September of this year. At first, I was curious to ask him about Cinelimite, the Sao Paolo-based non-profit organisation “dedicated to exhibiting, distributing, and digitizing repertory Brazilian cinema”.2 Freire noted that Cinelimite, like some other organisations, fills a necessary gap in access, and exists because “there is this need and interest for other films than the canon of most well-known and recognised Brazilian films.” Their online and in-cinema programs have made many works available in Brazil and worldwide.  

Thinking about films outside of the canon – those that are only recently being discovered by wider audiences – many have been saved and restored thanks to the enduring attention of filmmakers’ children and other kin invested in their family legacy. With this in mind, Freire told me that the story behind Antes, o Verão makes it “a restoration project different from others in Brazil that were carried out at the same time.” While working as a researcher at the Film Archive of Rio de Janiero’s Museum of Modern Art, Rafael de Luna Freire saw Antes, o Verão for the first time. It was exhibited as part of a screening series titled “Rare and Forgotten”, programmed by the archive to generate funding and support for its projects within the scope of the larger non-profit museum structure. There were only a couple of others in the audience – rare and forgotten seems right – but Freire immediately recognised its significance. An existential tale of a deteriorating marriage inflected with mystery, noir, and suburban malaise,3 it exists outside many understood definitions of Brazilian cinema. “It’s a very interesting adaptation of the novel,” said Freire, talking of the 1964 source material written by Carlos Heitor Cony. “It really tries to capture not only the plot, but the tension between the main couple. The film is very sensitive to capture this kind of mature relationship.” It’s also distinctive due to its setting and location. The film was shot on location in Cabo Frio, a popular tourist destination two hours from Rio de Janiero – but rather than capturing its thriving summer atmosphere, it was filmed during winter when the beachside city is next to empty. “It’s so windy and strange, it changes a lot between the seasons. When you go there, it’s a like a ghost city.”

There’s something of a haunting parallel between the film itself and its status as an artefact. Some years after his first viewing, Freire was drawn to take action when “there was a public call in Rio from the government for digitisation and restoration projects.” As a spectator of the film, and a historian of Brazilian cinema intrigued about how such a film could have been forgotten for so long, Freire wanted to put the film forward. “I contacted the director, who had retired from anything related to film, and he welcomed my proposal.” With the original negatives destroyed, Tavares himself had thought that Antes, o Verão was lost, but when the archive turned out to have two surviving prints Freire was able to spearhead a project of restoration. The problem became how to raise the funds. “It was very difficult to raise money for a film that nobody has heard of before,” but after defending the film’s historical worth, the restoration was approved and expanded to incorporate a review of Gerson Tavares’ career. Financed by the government of Rio de Janiero, the outcome of the project consisted of one 35mm print, a digital copy, and a DVD which included two features – Amor e Desamor (1966) being the other – and eight shorts. The DVD was distributed in 2015 by Associação Cultural Tela Brasilis to some archives and institutions, to generate interest in Brazilian cinema outside of the available canon.

Overall this is a relatively positive result. Angélica Gasparotto de Oliviera notes that in rescuing the films, the project “also rescued the memory of a Brazilian cinematographic movement as important to the Brazilian people as the French nouvelle vague, German Expressionism, and Italian neorealism”.4 But there’s another, more bittersweet, angle to the story. The restoration of Antes, o Verão among Tavares’ work “was the last photochemical restoration conducted in Brazil. We did it in a lab that closed at the end of the project.” They moved to another lab which also closed. Freire’s collaborator was Francisco Moreira, one of the country’s most important restorationists, who died the year after the project was completed. Will all these losses, “it was a kind of the end of an era. It was a good farewell, I think.” Tavares also passed away recently, and importantly to Freire, “I was very grateful to do this while he was still alive, so he could watch the film, his family could watch the film.” 

I asked whether Antes, o Verão would have screened in Australia back in its initial period of release. “It hasn’t, no,” was the immediate answer. “It was screened in Italy, because Gerson travelled to Italy for a retrospective of some Brazilian films in the early 70s. Cinelimite has screened the restoration in New York, I think its first time. But it was not a high-profile film; it was a medium-budget film that was well-received by the critics, but not so much, and never won any prizes. It got a good distribution in Brazil, but never got enough interest to be exported.” I wondered about the reason for this, given other films gained traction. “It was not an exotic film. It was a film from the middle-class, with a universal, cosmopolitan feel. It didn’t have this kind of ‘Brazilian’ aspect to interest international audiences.” 

This makes the upcoming Melbourne Cinémathèque screening very special, as it is very likely the first public screening of Antes, o Verão in the country. The film’s growing presence on the recent screening circuit and in conversations about rediscoveries has also contributed to redefining impressions of Brazilian cinema beyond the major styles and movements. “There is a relationship between preservation and history. The film was not screened, so it was not rediscovered.” In 2019, Rafael de Luna Freire participated in the BRICS Film Festival hosted in Rio,5 and organised courses on the cinema from all its countries – Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa. “It was so good to talk with each other, and not to see each other through the lens of Europe and the US. We made connections between Indian and Brazilian cinema of the 60s, of South African post-Apartheid cinema and Brazilian urban crime from the 90s.” The lens on film history should be broadened and these kinds of festivals and events help that trajectory. “It would be amazing if we had more connection with Australia, perhaps we could find out we have more in common than we might expect.”

Antes, o Verão (1968 Brazil 80 min) 

Prod Co: Verona Filmes, Jarbas Barbosa Produções Cinematográficas Prod: Jarbas Barbosa Dir: Gerson Tavares Scr: Gerson Tavares Phot: José Rosa Mus: Erlon Chaves Sound: Carlos de la Riva Ed: Roberto Pires Prod Des: Cláudio Moura

Cast: Jardel Filho, Norma Bengell, Paulo Gracindo, Hugo Carvana, Gilda Grillo, Mário Brasini


  1. For more on this, see: Stefan Solomon, ed. Tropicália and Beyond: Dialogues in Brazilian Film History (Berlin: Archive Books, 2017).
  2. Cinelimite: https://www.cinelimite.com/about-us.
  3. Davi Braga has compared its ending to that of Nicholas Ray’s Bigger Than Life (1956), in “Raro e esquecido, mas resgatado: “Antes, o Verão” (1968), sua trajetória crítica e uma jornada sobre memória e preservação”, Limite, no. 4 (2021): https://limiterevista.com/2021/06/28/raro-e-esquecido-mas-resgatado-antes-o-verao-1968-sua-trajetoria-critica-e-uma-jornada-sobre-memoria-e-preservacao/.
  4. Angélica Gasparotto de Oliviera, “Review: Resgate da obra cinematográfica de Gerson Tavares”, The Moving Image: The Journal of the Association of Moving Image Archivists, vol. 19 no. 2 (Fall 2019): p. 149.
  5. BRICS: https://bricsfilmfestival.netlify.app/en/.