Ao Redor do Brasil: Aspectos do Interior e das Fronteiras Brasileiras [Around Brazil: Aspects of the Interior and the Frontiers](1933) – dir. Luiz Thomaz Reis*

Nambikwara boys …
… react to Luiz Thomaz Reis’s camera

b&w, silent, 80 mins.

Source : this may be viewed on the web here 

This is a compilation of extracts from films that Luiz Thomaz Reis had shot during   various different expeditions around Brazil in the period 1924-1930. The film begins with a 1924 army expedition led by Captain Vasconcelos to the Ronuro, a tributary of the upper Xingu, but all the other expeditions were led by Reis’s principal patron, General Cândido Rondon, under the aegis of the Inspetoria de Fronteiras, with which Rondon was encharged in 1927. Details of the original films are available in the tentative filmography offered here.

Ao Redor do Brasil is a technically accomplished work and introduces the viewer to many different aspects of the interior of Brazil. However, the references to indigenous groups are all relatively brief and scattered through the film. None of this footage has the complexity of Reis’s earlier film, Rituais e festas Borôro (1917).

In the early section dealing with the Xingu headwaters expedition, there are some brief shots of various Xinguano groups, with the Bakairi, Kamayura and the ‘Ianahuquá’  (the Nahukwá, later decimated by epidemics) being mentioned by name. The sequence concludes with the Xinguanos being dressed in absurdly over-sized clothes.

Towards the middle of the film, there is an interesting sequence on the Karajá on the Araguaia river, shot during an Inspetoria de Fronteiras expedition in 1929. This shows the impressive ‘Aruan’ dance which features elaborately masked dancers performing to music from long paired flutes reminiscent of those played in the Xingu. (This is the same dance as is shown briefly in Heinz Förthmann’s 1947 film, Os Caraja).

Around 70 minutes into the film, there is a relatively extended sequence on the Nambikwara, whom the expedition meet at Porto Amarante (close to the modern town of Vilhena), on the Rio Cabixis,  a tributary of the Guapore River. This appears to be a different group of Nambikwara to those who appear in Reis’s earlier and now-lost film Os Sertões de Matto-Grosso (1915). The footage is not very profound, consisting merely a of a series of portraits. However, these are particularly striking and engaging, and very reminiscent of the photographs of the Nambikwara that Claude Lévi-Strauss took when he visited them in 1938.

Judging by its position in the film, this material appears to have been shot in early 1930, as part of Rondon’s third year of duty as the Inspector of Frontiers. Some of this material also turns up in the fragments of footage in the Museo do Índio film archive, described here.

The last indigenous group referred to in this film, immediately following the Nambikwara sequence, at about 73 minutes, are the Pakaas Novas (now known as the Wari’). But this material was shot at a Posto Indigena, where the Wari’ are shown to be receiving instruction in the ways of ‘civilisation’. Women are shown pounding grain and sifting flour, while men hoe in a line, all dressed in the European manner.  There is even a portrait of a Wari’ woman married to a local Brazilian functionary.



© 2018 Paul Henley