Carlos Diegues On Cannes Special Screener ‘The Great Mystical Circus’

One of Cinema Novo's founding fathers, Diegues is uniquely qualified to discuss the current state of Brazilian cinema and it's Cinema Novo roots

Cannes Film Festival: Brazil's Carlos Diegues
Latido Films

CANNES, France — Carlos (Cacá) Diegues presented his latest directorial feature at a Special Screening in Cannes. A celebration of magic, entertainment and cinema,”The Great Mystical Circus” is inspired by a poem from Brazilian poet Jorge de Lima. It follows a family of circus entertainers through five generations, told in a series of intertwining tales, all set to a soundtrack by Chico Buarque, who originally adapted the poem for the stage in the 1980s.

Starring Vincent Cassel, Jesuíta Barbosa, Bruna Linzmeyer and Mariana Ximenes, the film is produced by Brazil’s Luz Magica Produçoes and Globo Filmes, Portugal’s Fado Filmes and France’s Milonga Productions. Spain’s Latido Films is selling international sales rights.

Though still very much a filmmaking force, director-producer Diegues’ career spans more than fifty years; his first feature film involvement coming in 1962 when he directed part of the groundbreaking neo-realist “Cinco Vezes Favela.” He was one of the initiators of Brazil’s Cinema Novo alongside Glauber Rocha and Nelson Pereira Dos Santos. Diegues’ has always sought, with sometimes outstanding success, to contact with larger audiences, while considering cinema as one of the highest forms of art. Diegues is a Cannes regular, at Cannes with “Bye Bye Brazil” (1980), “Quilombo” (1984), and “Subway to the Stars” (1987) and most recently, as a producer, with “5 x Favela, Now by Ourselves.”

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Latido Films

You’ve said before that this film is the culmination of your years of work in cinema. Can you expand on that?

I was referring to many different concepts and ways of making a movie I’ve been trying since my first. I belong to a generation that decided to create Brazilian cinema. Before our films, Brazil wasn’t really on screens. We brought a real Brazilian image to the movies we made, as if we were inventing the country through the movies, as much as we were inventing a cinema for our country. When we started making movies, Brazil used to produce about five or six films a year. Last year we produced 160.

 “Mystical Circus” is based on a poem that also inspired Edu Lobo and Chico Buarque’s musical. How did it inspire you?

Jorge de Lima, the poet who wrote “The Great Mystical Circus”, has always been my favorite Brazilian poet. Since my start as a filmmaker I always planned to make a movie of one of his poems. When I first listened to the soundtrack of Lobo and Buarque’s ballet I knew that was the poem I had to make into a movie. However, I never saw that ballet. It was staged only in Paraná, in the south of Brazil, very far from where I live in Rio de Janeiro.

“Mystical Circus” is about progress, evolution and magic. How do you see modern progressions in digital platforms evolving cinema?

I don’t believe that those digital platforms affect the cinema language more than certain great directors like Scorsese, Coppola, Paul Thomas Anderson and the likes. Those digital platforms are but new ways to show films and what counts are the films, not the platforms.

Your name is synonymous with Brazil’s Cinema Novo, but you made “Mystical Circus” a bit more main-stream.

Cinema Novo used to tell stories and show images that the audience had never heard or seen before. We took time to develop a discovery through film, what the Brazilian culture was about. However, in fact, each one of us has made at least one big popular hit. My first was “Xica da Silva,” in 1976, and that was my sixth film.

How do you think Cinema Novo has impacted new young filmmakers?

I would say that even young filmmakers who, by some chance, never saw a Cinema Novo movie, owe something to those movies. That recent past of our films is pressed on their frames, even if they are not aware of it.

How do you see the current state of Brazilian cinema? 

I believe that Brazilian cinema is at a good moment in its history. We’re producing more films than ever. They are very diverse and some of them are doing well with the national audience. The battle now is to gain an international appeal, keep the quality, and at the same time make popular hits. I know that this is utopian, but we’ve got to believe in utopias to get at least close to them.

You just finished producing Paulo Nascimento’s “Teu Mundo Não Cabe Nos Meus Olhos,” and Ale McHaddo’s comedy “O Amor Dá Travalho”. What’s next?

I’m involved as an associate producer on a number of projects produced by Globo Filmes. According to a deal I signed with them I’m supposed to serve as an associate producer on a small number of their projects. On the other hand, Renata Magalhães and I have our own production company, Luz Mágica Productions, which is now producing two films with two young filmmakers: A documentary by Rodrigo Felha called “Favela Gay,” and a film about a revolutionary radio station in the 1980s, “Aumenta que é rockn’roll,” directed by Tomás Portella.