The black body that performs, fables, and forges futures lies in the very genesis of black cinema. Here, “black cinema” is understood more as a political category than aesthetic, an act marking the presence of black bodies occupying the primordial role in the making of a film: direction. There is, however, room for a broader discussion, one which still needs to be had, to go deeper into what – which works and aesthetics – constitutes Black Cinema.
Alma no olho (“Soul in the Eye”, 1974), the first film by a black Brazilian director to invite his blackness to the center of the cinematic act, brings Zózimo Bulbul – director, actor, screenwriter and film producer – (re)telling the story of four centuries of black lives in Brazil by means of a single body (his own), a single scene (a studio with an infinite white background) and the absence of dialogue, contrasted with the vibration of the sounds and the soundtrack by John Coltrane. A body in front of a camera communicating a diaspora experience.
Cinema, performance and the visual arts
Cut to 2018. In contemporary black productions, particularly those directed by women, performativity not only maintains its strength, but has sought a dialogue that goes beyond both the specific performance itself and the Cinema (capitalized here to denote a set of rules that defines what a film is or is not), also borrowing creative devices and processes from the visual arts.
Outspokenly influenced by Alma no olho, Kbela (2015), for example, by Yasmin Thayná, explicitly opens up a front of dialogue with performances and interventions by black women artists. And not only that: the short film’s very staging mobilizes performative bodies. Each scene constitutes a unit of meaning in itself, with the potential to be appreciated on its own, outside the context of the film. “One example of this is Priscila Rezende’s Bombril (2010) performance, an essential part of the world of references from which Kbela feeds.”