The principal contribution of Edgard Roquette-Pinto to ethnographic film history took the form of the footage that he shot of the Nambikwara and Paresí in the Serra dos Parecis, Mato Grosso, in 1912, described here.
This footage is listed in the catalogue of the Cinemateca Brasileira, but it was not possible to view it for The Silent Time Machine. This appears to have been the only film that Roquette-Pinto shot in the course of his career.
The material shot by the German anthropologist, Theodor Koch-Grünberg among the Taulipang of Roraima, described here, precedes it in time by a year, but Roquette-Pinto’s footage was the first to be shot by a Brazilian anthropologist among the indigenous peoples of Brazil. It would not be until 1950, when Darcy Ribeiro collaborated with Heinz Förthmann in the making of Os Índios “Urubus” that another Brazilian anthropologist would follow his example.
Originally trained in medicine, Roquette-Pinto was appointed as assistant professor of anthropology at the Museu Nacional in Rio de Janeiro in 1906. His first publication in the field of anthropology broadly defined, also in 1906, concerned medical practices of the indigenous peoples of the Americas He later carried out excavations of sambaqui shell middens in Rio Grande do Sul and published on this work in 1912.
His expedition to the Serra dos Parecis in that same year was supported logistically by the ‘Rondon Commission’ and followed the routes of the telegraph lines that the Commission had cut through the plateau. In 1917, Roquette-Pinto published an extended account of this journey, during which he assembled a large collection of artefacts, and took both sound recordings and photographs as well as shooting the film footage.
He also used the book to argue that the area through which he travelled should be named ‘Rondônia’ in recognition of the role of the commission headed by Colonel (later General) Cândido Rondon in connecting that part of country with the rest of Brazil. In the event, the suggestion was taken up by the Brazilian government, but the area so named was actually somewhat to the north of the area through which Roquette-Pinto himself had travelled.
In his later career, Roquette-Pinto became a distinguished figure in Brazilian national life. In 1926, he was named as the director of the Museu Nacional and around the same time played a leading role in the development of radio broadcasting in Brazil.
He is also remembered in Brasil as one of the founders of the Instituto Nacional do Cinema Educativo (INCE) and the Brazilian Socialist Party. Less in tune with modern attitudes was his participation in the Brazilian eugenics movement in the 1930s, though in contrast to many eugenicists, he argued against the view that miscegenation between races would lead to a deterioration in the Brazilian population as a whole.
Text: Roquette-Pinto 1917.