Sunday, June 24, 2012

Abdias do Nascimento [2011]

Fr. Dennis (4 Stars)

IMDb listing -

Abdias do Nascimento [Eng Trans] (written and directed by Aida Marques) is a documentary (in Portuguese w. English subtitles) about the life of Abdias do Nascimento [PT, Eng Trans] (official website, Eng Trans) which played recently at the 10th Annual Chicago African Diaspora Film Festival held at Chicago's Facets Multimedia Theater between June 15-21, 2012.

Abdias do Nascimento who died in 2011 at the age of 97 was a unflagging and imaginative leader of the Afro-Brazilian community in Brazil.

Tired of watching even black roles being played in Brazilian theaters by white actors (in black face), in 1944 he led the creation of the Teatro Experimental do Negro (Black Experimental Theater) [PT-Orig, Eng Trans] in Rio de Janeiro.  Similarly tired of watching the works of black artists largely ignored by Brazilian society, in 1950 he led the creation of the Museu de Arte Negra (Museum of Black Art) [PT-Orig 1, 2, Eng-Trans 1, 2].  He pushed the point further (and ruffled some feathers) when in 1955 he helped organize an artistic competition sponsored by the newly formed museum around the theme of "The Black Christ."  (I'd love to find some images from that competition...).

Needless to say, that kind of activism can eventually get one into trouble.  So in 1968, with the consolidation of the military dictatorship in Brazil [PT, Eng Trans] he had to flee the country.  After Brazil returned to civilian rule Abdias was eventually able to return to his country and was elected twice to serve as a deputy (representative) in the Brazilian Federal Legislature and served even as a Senator.

All in all, I found the documentary about Abdias do Nascimento fascinating and I do think that much can be learned from his example of utilizing the arts to promote justice and human dignity.

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