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MEMORIES OF PRISON

Brazil, 1984 (MIFF 1985)

Director: Nelson Pereira dos Santos

Directed by Nelson Pereira dos Santos, the founding figure of South American 'cinema novo', Memories of Prison has been hailed as the greatest Brazilian film of recent years. And like his early classic Vidas Secas (Barren Lives 1963), Pereira dos Santos' new film is based on a novel by Graciliano Ramos - undisputedly the greatest writer Brazil has produced.

Ramos' autobiographical story deals with the aftermath of an uprising in northeast Brazil during the Getulio Vardas dictatorship of the 1930s. At that time the government not only arrested communists and members of the military who had taken part in the rebellion, but also took advantage of the situation to imprison a great many liberals, including Ramos. Transferred from prison to prison, he ends up in a penal settlement on an island off the Rio de Janeiro coast This vision of a Brazilian gulag of the 1930s serves as a metaphor for the 'imprisoned' Brazil of today.

"Not the least interesting thing about the film is that while most of the cast are men, one result of our hero becoming a political prisoner is the great change it brings about in his wife. When we first see her, she is shown as a rather timid, ineffectual person, but her husband's absence makes her become incredibly resourceful, transforms her into a new woman and, in spite of everything, a much happier one."

- Richard Roud, The Guardian

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