In Memory of Nelson Pereira dos Santos

The Light of Tom

A Luz do Tom

BRAZIL / 2013 / Portuguese / Color / Digital File / 85 min

Director: Nelson Pereira dos Santos
Script: Nelson Pereira dos Santos, Miúcha
Photography: Maritza Caneca
Editing: Alexandre Saggese, Luelane Corrêa
Sound: Jorge Saldanha
Music: Paulo Jobim
Cast: Helena Jobim, Teresa Hermanny, Ana Lontra Jobim
Producers: Marcia Pereira dos Santos, Maurício Andrade Ramos
Source: Regina Filmes
*Co-presented with the Athénée Français Cultural Center

The life of Antonio Carlos Jobim (“Tom Jobim”), based on his sister Helena’s 1996 book, Antonio Carlos Jobim, um homem iluminado, and told by three women he loved: his sister, Helena, his first wife Teresa, and his second wife, Ana Lontra. Brought to life by the women’s own recollections, Jobim’s beautiful voice and his passion for the tropical rainforest, a previously unknown side of his life emerges. A posthumous work dedicated to Jobim by Pereira dos Santos, who is of the same generation.

From reality to fiction . . .

It is on this theme that a moving encounter took place in 1999 at the Institut-français de Tokyo, between Oshima Nagisa and Nelson Pereira dos Santos. It was accompanied by a screening of Barren Lives.

He made his first films during the Kubitschek years (1956–61), an era of prosperity for Brazil, that was unfortunately followed by a military dictatorship which proved a heavy burden for the cinema of the country. These first films were documentaries, a genre for which he maintained a marked taste until the end of his life. Like his fiction films, they invite us to take an inward journey, camera in hand, to the heart of Brazil—and into its history and people. In a book published by Éditions Autrement in 1988 in commemoration of the tenth anniversary of Cinéma du Réel, he stated that for him, fiction and documentary are “two sides of the same coin.” He also said that without his experience in documentary he would have been unable to make Barren Lives.

Pioneer of Latin American neo-realism and father of the Brazilian Cinema Novo, a brave and committed filmmaker, he was animated by a desire for sociopolitical commentary that never descended into dogmatism. Unfailingly generous, Nelson was also a sensitive man, full of humor, and a true charmer.

Though he never stepped foot in Japan until 1999, at the invitation of the Yamagata Festival and the Athénée Français Cultural Center, the country was already part of his dreams. It was in São Paolo, where he was born and raised, that he had become closely connected with the city’s Japanese community.

Later, he was to say that walking in Kagurazaka in Tokyo he was even taken for an elderly Japanese person and asked for directions. He was touched by the delicacy and refinement of the Japanese people, and he would have been deeply moved by this tribute to him today at the Yamagata Festival.

Marie-Christine de Navacelle

Nelson Pereira dos Santos

Born 1928 in São Paulo. Attended IDHEC (now known as FEMIS). After returning to Brazil, he directed two independently-produced shorts. He directed his first feature Rio 40 Degrees in 1955, shot locally with nonprofessional actors. Became a leading filmmaker in the Brazilian Cinema Nuovo movement of the 1960s and 1970s with the release of Barren Lives (1963, YIDFF ’99), and was often referred to as the conscience of Cinema Nuovo. Beginning in 1974, he worked at making movies that, despite being directed at a mass audience, reexamined the historical meaning of democracy in Brazil; these include Tent of Miracles (1977) and Memoirs of Prison (1984). He was the chair of the jury for the International Competition at YIDFF ’99. The Masters and the Slaves (2001) was shown at YIDFF 2001. Dos Santos passed away in April, 2018 at age eighty-nine.