Saturday, August 2, 2014

André Setaro

Portraits of Memory of the Brazilian Film Critic André Setaro

I met my friend, André Setaro for the first in 1967 during the shooting of the short film "Perâmbulo" (“Wanderer”), a clever short film authored by young filmmakers and friends, José Umberto and José Carlos Menezes. We were a group of young people - friends and acquaintances interested in film and music - meeting at a restaurant next to the Castro Alves Theater off Campo Grande Square (in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil). We were seated at the tables of the restaurant "to have lunch", I mean, to act and perform as extras for scenes shot for the short film. André Setaro, at that time, was a young guy, thin, tall, pale and almost shy.
 If my memory serves me well, I met André for the second time in front of the College of Philosophy and Human Sciences at the Federal University of Bahia (UFBa), located in the neighborhood of Nazareth, in Salvador. At that time, José (Zé) Umberto, Chico Sampaio, other dear friends, and I had begun to study Social Sciences (Sociology) in the College of Philosophy. André, a few years younger than we were, was still preparing to enter Law School. Years later, he completed his Law degree, but he never practiced law. One of my recurring memories of André at that time is seeing him walking in front of the College of Philosophy, often accompanied by a black umbrella that he carried in his right hand.
While we studied Social Sciences, my friend Umberto also deepened his knowledge of the art of cinema, as I studied cello and music composition in the Seminário de Música (Music Seminars) at the UFBa. At a certain point in our university journey, decided to produce and direct his first feature film, O Anjo Negro (The Dark Angel), inviting me to compose the music for the song "I'm alone", a poem he had written, which read:
“Estou só        Cada vez mais estou só            Meu barco não navega no mar
Meu aeroplano na linda galáxia não sabe voar          Cada vez mais estou só”
(I'm alone       I am increasingly alone         My boat does not sail at sea
My airplane does not fly in the beautiful galaxy     and     I am increasingly alone).
It goes without saying that Zé’s invitation to work on the creation of a sound track pleased me immensely
For students of Sociology, his film O Anjo Negro, also helped us see Brazilian society as a complex whole of social relationships between different social classes, different races and ethnicities, different sexual genders, different nationalities and different generations
As a student of Social Sciences, I also learned, from my undergraduate classes, how the existence of the military dictatorship with its policy of repression, torture, and the murder of Brazilian citizens, was a threat, not only to our middle class socio-economic-cultural position, but also to that of most of the population of Brazilian society. At that time, all the contradictions and political, social, economic and cultural conflicts between social classes, races, genders, and between old and new generations tended to face a decisive confrontation in favor of the birth of a new society in Brazil.  However, the Brazilian military dictatorship emerged in Brazilian society to (violently, oppressively, and criminally) suppress the differences and contradictions within our social history
After graduating in Social Sciences, I tried to get a job as a professional expert in Sociology, but I was never able to find work as a sociologist in the city of Salvador, because at that time, the military rulers did not allow me to do it. From the standpoint of the ideology of the dictatorship, Sociology was a useless and/or subversive career. I had no alternative but to start working as a journalist in the well-known Bahian newspaper, Tribuna da Bahia, in the city of Salvador.
Years later, I left the Tribuna da Bahia and went to work in the Amazon forest, because it was the only place where I could get a job as a professional sociologist

It was during this point (since 1974) that André Setaro started to develop himself as a professional film columnist and critic for the Tribuna da Bahia. For 40 years, he wrote reviews of great analytical and critical quality on important movies and became one of the most important film critics of Bahia and Brazil.

 I lost almost all contact with André Setaro, Umberto José Carlos Menezes, Edgard Navarro and other friends connected to Bahian cinema during the years I was working as a rural sociologist in the state of Rondônia (in the Amazon forest), in the state of Pernambuco and Bahia, on the bank of the São Francisco River, areas flooded by the dam of the CHESF in Sobradinho.
That distance between these friends and I increased when I emigrated to study (a Masters degree in Mexico and a Ph.D. degree in the U.S.) and started working and living abroad. Even traveling sporadically (during holidays) to the city of Salvador to visit my family, relatives, and friends, I never had the opportunity to contact André.
In 2008, I traveled to Brazil to launch (in Salvador, Feira de Santana and Lenclos) my book, Memorial da Ilha e Outras Ficções (Memorial of the Island and Other Fictions), a volume consisting of a short novel about summer vacations on Itaparica Island (in Bahia) and some short stories about the period of the darkest years of the military dictatorship (“the years of lead”). It was during this visit in 2008, that a great friend of mine, the filmmaker Edgard Reis Navarro Filho, told me that Rex Schindler and his group had caused great harm to the new film, “Revoada” (The last flight of the flocks) by the director, Umberto and informed me about the serious neglect of Bahian filmmakers: they were unable to step up to defend the director, Zé Humberto. But the critic, André Setaro, was one of a few film critics who had the courage to face Rex Schindler’s group and write almost daily in defense of director and author, José Umberto Dias.

The lack of solidarity, the indifference and cowardice of the Bahian cinema group to support and defend Umberto also made me angry and I decided to write a letter addressed to André Setaro, supporting his work and his fight to expose the absurd situation with Revoada. After receiving my letter, André Setaro decided to publish it in his Setaro's blog with the title “A questão ‘Revoada’ vista de fora do Brasil” ("The 'Flock' issue seen from outside of Brazil ") because I was living and working in the USA at the time.

In the introduction to my letter, André wrote: Recebi de Jorge Vital, que conheci, quando a Bahia era a Bahia e não a cidade engarrafada, congestionada e enfartada dos tempos atuais, esta mensagem que coloca bem a questão Revoada, principalmente por um estudioso que mora há algum tempo nos Estados Unidos. Vital acompanhou todo o imbróglio por este blog e pelas publicações do espaço virtual que deram conta do terrível castigo imposto a um cineasta idealista como José Umberto.” (I received from Jorge Vital - whom I met when Bahia was Bahia and it was not the bottled-necked, congested and infarcted city of modern times - this message that lays out well the issue of Revoada, especially in that it is coming from an expert who has been living in the US for some time. Vital accompanied the whole imbroglio by way of this blog and through the publications of this virtual space that inform about the terrible punishment imposed on an idealistic filmmaker such as Jose Umberto.)

After he published this letter of mine, we talked often via international phone calls about the situation of Zé’s film and many other topics, including predominantly film (American, European, and Brazilian movies), the situation of mediocrity and social-economic-political-cultural poverty in the state of Bahia and Brazil, the decline of national public health services, and the state of our own personal health.     

When I informed André that I was writing about social, economic, cultural, film and musical themes in Spanish for, he asked me if I was interested in writing a text on Brazilian or International film to be placed in his Setaro's blog. I accepted his invitation and my first collaboration was titled "Capitalism: A Love Story by Michael Moore”. This text was the translation into Portuguese of my text originally written and published in Spanish by From that moment on, I never stopped my collaboration with Setaro's blog, with written texts in Portuguese or those translated from Spanish.   

Later, André introduced me (by e-mail) to the editor of the blog, Novas Pensatas, the creative artist, Jonga de Olivieri, who besides being a recognized professional in the field of advertising, is also a lucid writer as well as a dear cousin of Setaro. To my surprise and joy, Jonga invited me to collaborate in writing for the blog, Novas Pensatas. I accepted his invitation and even now, I continue collaborating with Novas Pensatas blog, and enjoy the friendship and generosity of Jonga and his family.

Over the years, I developed a warm admiration for André’s work, for his knowledge of film art, for the openness and depth with which he prepared his articles on film for his column in the Tribuna da Bahia, for his Setaro’s blog, and for Terra Magazine online journal.

 With the passage of time, we reduced the distance of our relationship and as our mutual knowledge of each other grew, so did my admiration for him: I admired his courage and his indignation when he spoke of the predominant characteristics (chaos, violence, and degradation) that assault our modern city of Salvador (our beloved homeland); for his understanding and generosity to those filmmakers who depended on public calls (edital publicos) to undertake their films; for his indignation against mediocrity and the commercialism of cinematographic authorities linked to the Brazilian and Bahian government and the majority of film production; for his revolt against the high interest rates imposed by the capitalist banks against the Brazilian and Bahian population.

It was gratifying to see his strength in defending his points of view; it was encouraging to see his “Machado de Assis kind of irony” and political resistance to gentrification (of broad sectors of the middle class) arising from the socio-economic-ideological reality of 21 years of military dictatorship, of liberal/populist discourses and of national myths such asthe Brazilian people are welcoming (cordial) and free from racism and hate”. For these (and other) of André Setaro’s admirable qualities, I feel honored to have been his friend, his admirer, and a collaborator with his film blog.

We had planned to meet in Salvador on my next trip to Brazil, and to travel by boat to the Island of Itaparica, to be close to the blue sea, the white sand, the palms of coconut trees, chatting, drinking beer, and bathing in the sea of Mar Grande (the town where my mother was born and my family spent summers). Unfortunately, with his death, the plans are no longer viable.

But, I do not resign myself to this fact: with so many capitalist-powered zombie-people (billionaires, politicians and military people) that have been recognized and declared criminals of war in Vietnam, Iraq and Palestine (individuals responsible for the genocide of millions of defenseless human beings; individuals who deserve to be buried under the earth so that they can’t create so much hatred, so much war, so much misery and destruction), I can not resign myself to the fact that death takes the lives of people such as André Setaro: people who are still young and productive (he was only 63 years old), who would continue living in this world to sow the best fruits and share them with real human beings.

1 comment:

  1. My dear Cathy, André, besides a great connoisseur of cinema, was my cousin and good friend. The last time I came to Rio de Janeiro stayed with my niece and gave us a great pleasure with his presence. certainly an odd figure ...