Brazil in progress : Talking about my generation. Using First Person documentary to analyse Brazilian large-scale social movements

Authors: Machado Oliveira, C.

Editors: De Jong, W. and Cornwall, A.

Conference: University of Sussex


This Creative and Critical Practice PhD explored Brazil's recent history with large-scale social movements through the lens of my personal journey in immigrating to the UK and subsequently returning home to my native country of Brazil. Throughout this research, I reflected upon my transnational identity, delving into how this element influenced my sense of self and consequently shaped the construction of my first-person documentary. The documentary and the thesis take on a self-conscious, culturally-based approach to first person documentary film and its processes of production, bringing forward the intricacies and challenges of translating the personal elements onto film. Navigating through my intimate self-exploration and experiences in self-inscribing, narrating and filming the documentary, I explored the ways in which the first person mode can be utilised to address wider social issues, through a personalised, individual experience. By exploring audiovisual tropes and techniques akin to autobiographical films and online video-blogs, I constructed a personal narrative that investigated the key catalysts that initiated Brazil's large-scale social movements of 2013 and why they came to be. Interviews with friends and family members, as well as the use or private family archive footage and historical archive imageries, enabled the research to reveal juxtapositions in opinions and in attitudes between my family's and my generation. Thus, creating a space for comparison between the past and present. This practice-led research concludes that, despite the ever-growing number of first person documentary films, the genre is still located within the margins of mainstream cinema. The first person documentary mode allows the filmmaker to experiment with diverse audiovisual techniques, self-direct the exploration of their personal identity, chronicle their journey in finding their place in the world and represent issues often made invisible by mainstream media outlets. In this approach, conceptualized by Alisa Lebow (2012) as ‘Cinema of We', the first person, the ‘I' of the documentary, is conceived as plural, as a social ‘I'. This always implies an interconnection with another, may that be a group, a mass or the society the ‘I' is inserted in. As expressed by the film's title, “Talking About My Generation”, my ‘I' is constructed and depicted in relation to my friends, family and the social movements of 2013. This thesis also concludes that, as new media technologies rapidly evolve and develop, documentary filmmaking and its processes of distribution go through an important process of transformation, adapting to new forms of consuming and producing visual media. Videoblogs make use of first person documentary filmmaking tropes, consequently becoming a compact, audience-driven strand of the genre. The most recent large-scale Brazilian movements seen in 2013, took advantage of this medium as a way to organize, disseminate ideas and build community networks. This was a fundamental difference from its predecessor mass movements of 1984 and 1992. All of these large-scale movements can be described as ‘cycles' with outcomes that paved the way for other protests to occur by building on previous socio-economic demands and grievances.

Source: Manual