A Idade da Pedra, 29 min, 2013
A voyage into the far west of Brazil leads us to a monumental structure—petrified at the centre of the savannah. Inspired by the epic construction of the city of Brasília, the film uses this history to imagine it otherwise. “I look at Brasília the way I look at Rome: Brasília began with a final simplification of ruins.” Through the geological traces that lead us to this fictive monument, the film unearths a history of exploration, prophecy and myth. A journey into unknown territory in Brazil leads us to discover a monumental structure and immerses us in the forms and texture of stone. This film, inspired by the construction of the country’s modern capital, is a science-fiction documentary, an astonishing object standing between the cinema of Glauber Rocha and the visual arts. A visionary vertigo that will take your breath away. – Visions du Réel
Occidente, 15 min, 2014
A film-poem of an ecology of signs that speaks of colonial history repeating itself. Subalterns become masters, antiques become reproducible dinner sets, exotic birds become luxury currency, exploration becomes extreme-sport-tourism, monuments become geodata. A spherical voyage eastwards and westwards marking cycles of expansion in a struggle to find one’s place, one’s sitting around a table.
Há Terre! (There is Land!), 13 min, 2016
Há terra! is an encounter, a hunt, a diachronic tale of looking and becoming. As in a game, as in a chase, the film errs between character and land, land and character, predator and prey. This is how Ana Vaz describes her 16mm cine-poem. Darting camera movements appear to chase a young maroon girl through the high grass. The present-tense voice-over seems to fuse with the past in the myopia of the long focus lens. The recurrent sound loop of a man shouting “Land! Land!” conjures up the distant memory of colonialism. But the beauty of this collage rests on the impossibility for the spectator to let this past “pass”: soon the current testimony involves a mayor who has taken over by threat the lands of the indigenous people. The young girl being hunted comes to personify a territory. We are in Brazil’s sertão, where the cry “há terra!” (literally: “there is land”) can also be heard as asserting that there is no reason for the landless or have-nots—whose organized movement is now some forty years old—to be deprived of land. Enigmatic and febrile, the film vibrates with references from Oswald de Andrade’s Cannibalist Manifesto (1928), another source of inspiration for Ana Vaz: “Cannibalism. Absorption of the sacred enemy to transform him into a totem. The human adventure. The earthly goal.” – Charlotte Garson
NYFF Interview > read full text here
Aily Nash: In Occidente, you question the post-colonial relationship between Brazil and Portugal. But I see the film as simultaneously enunciating the concerns of the Anthropocene, a perspective that flattens the distinction between the cultural and the natural. You draw attention to these sites of imbalance, and the seams and emblems of unrest, perhaps suggesting an imminent break. What’s the relationship between this ecology of signs related to post-colonial discourse and that of the Anthropocene?
Ana Vaz: There is certainly an interdependent relationship between colonialism and the Anthropocene. We could say one accelerates and feeds the other, and its impact is systemic. Facing our creeping ecological ruin, we are begged to radically reconsider and analyze our relationships and activities, our vices and modes of living—this is at the heart of post-colonial discourse and something Occidente keenly speculates upon. I like to argue, along with many other thinkers, that the Anthropocene begins with the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the Americas, which is the consecration of the European project, the Occidental project. So with Occidente I was thinking about what the so-called “discovery of the Americas” posed as an identity problem, both internally and externally. The backbone of Occidente is anchored in an Anthropophagic mode of thinking. Oswald de Andrade, author of the Anthropophagic Manifesto, is said to have “discovered” Brazil from afar. “From the top of an atelier in Place de Clichy, he discovered his own land,” writes Paulo Prado about de Andrade. So this reverse perspective is something we find at the basis of his theory of “devoration,” a theory that borrows from the cannibalistic rituals performed by Brazilian Amerindians, which stunned the European settlers from their very first contact.
And so very much under this rubric of “who devours who?” I went to Lisbon to shoot Occidente as a kind of reverse ethnography. I wanted to imagine the opposing trip: from the Americas into the coast of Europe, from Brazil into the port of our historic colonial administrative centre, Lisbon—an eating-up of our European roots, a ritual of devoration.
The film looks for the elastic tensions between spaces and gestures, people and social environments, animals and rites, botanic displays and museum displays, in this sense very much under this flattening you suggest between the cultural and the natural. I see Oswald’s Anthropophagic proposition as a method for a constant de-colonization of our modes of thinking, and under this logic the paradigm that opposes culture to nature is another imperative to be de-naturalized, de-colonized. So Anthropophagy is a negative philosophy that begs us to ingest our enemy only to subvert any imperial logic, any imbalance between self and other, in order to become with and within this enemy-other. So yes, to answer your question about the Anthropocene and its relationship to this (post)colonial cosmology that we are confronted with in the film, there is certainly a destabilizing logic at work, in which things are at once put in conflict and contradiction with one another, in a constant dialectic of “who colonizes who?” This is what the denomination of the Anthropocene begs us to do, to re-define our relationships in order to un-tie the naturalized binds of the Western project of domination and destruction, exclusivity and property, exploitation and exhaustion. “Life is pure devoration,” de Andrade claims in “The Crisis of Messianic Philosophy,” and I think Occidente is a film about cycles of devoration.
The European crisis which had Portugal as one of its main protagonists had me thinking about these processes of devoration and reversals. It was noticeable how Portugal was inviting its former colonies to return and inject force and vigor into their economy and social fabric, offering European passports to Brazilians who could buy property in Lisbon, and rich Brazilians entertaining the bankrupt Portuguese aristocracy, and so I felt this uncanny situation would be an interesting backdrop for this film. This is condensed, particularly in the lunch scene where the Anthropophagic question returns, the question of where to sit around the table, and of “who eats who.”
Curated by Oona Mosna.