Yesterday was an extremely sad day for Brazilian and world democracy, as the president Dilma Rousseff was removed from office by a coup d’état thinly disguised as a legal impeachment process. Artists throughout Brazil have denounced the reactionary and illegitimate process, most notoriously the filmmaker Kleber Mendonça Filho and the crew of his latest film Aquarius. They held signs exposing the coup on the red carpet of the Cannes Film festival this year. Brazil’s undemocratic government led by Michel Temer reacted furiously, giving the film an adult certificate and manoeuvring in order to prevent it from being selected for the Oscars.
Many filmmakers including Gabriel Mascaro, Anna Mulayert and Aly Muritiba almost immediately withdrew their films from the competition in protest against the censorship and reactionary government. DMovies held the screening of Mascaro’s Neon Bull last night at the Brazilian Embassy In London – precisely the film that he removed from the Oscar entry competition.
Director Gabriel Mascaro examines the vaquejada, a countryside Brazilian sport, where cowboys (vaqueiros) on horseback pursue a bull and attempt to knock it over. Despite representing such a masculine universe, the main character Iremar (Juliano Cazarré) has a passion for fashion. His ambition is to design exotic clothing for women, in stark contrast to his manly occupation.
Neon Bull exposes the dark traits of everyday vaqueiro life often in rich and graphic detail, in the tradition of Naturalism (the Brazilian literary movement of the 19th century). It is extremely sensual and somewhat bizarre. There are long takes of cowboys pissing, Iremar is shown having sex with a pregnant woman, and even masturbating a horse to the point of ejaculation.
The significance of this film screening is dual. Not only is Neon Bull an extremely audacious and realistic portrait of a lesser-known aspect of Brazilian culture (the vaquejadas), but it has now become a very important voice for democracy and freedom of expression. DMovies are extremely grateful to everyone at the Embassy – particularly Fernanda Franco, Andrzej Snowden and Hayle Gadelha – and very proud for the opportunity to use art and cinema as a venting outlet against censorship and oppression.