The Brazilian Association of Film Critics has selected Eduardo Coutinho's Twenty Years Later as the best Brazilian documentary of all-time, as part of a survey honoring the best documentaries ever made in the South American country.
The late master documentarian Coutinho is the big news of the survey, as he makes the top one hundred a grand total of nine times, including also the number two and four spots. Twenty Years Later / Cabra Marcado para Morrer, Coutinho’s 1984 documentary, began in early 1964, he was shooting a film about the murder of a peasant leader in the state of Paraíba when news arrived that the military had carried out a coup d'état. Fearing for their lives, crew and subjects alike scattered. Some were arrested, and the footage was hidden for nearly two decades as the dictatorship wore on. When hope for a return to democracy emerged, Coutinho retraced his steps and went to seek out the subjects of his lost film.
In second place is Coutinho’s 2007 film Playing / Jogo de Cena. Following a newspaper ad, ordinary women tell part of their life stories to Coutinho, which are then re-enacted by actresses, blurring the barriers between truth, fiction and interpretation.
Third place went to João Moreira Salles’ 2007 documentary Santiago. In the early 1990s, filmmaker Salles commenced work on a documentary about his family's flashy butler, Santiago, who had worked in-residence for the family since João was a boy. After leaving the film unfinished for over a decade Salles finally edited the film with his own narration, which - when coupled with the director's recollections - provides an extended meditation on memory and the nature of identity.
Coutinho makes the countdown again with Master, A Building in Copacabana / Edifício Master (2002) in which Coutinho speaks with families living in a huge 12-story residential building in Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro, getting to know their drama, aspirations, intimate revelations, loneliness and dreams.
Taking fifth place is Andréa Tonacci’s The Hills of Disorder / Serras da Desordem (2006). Through a mix of documentary and recreation, Tonacci tells the fascinating tale of Carapiru, an Indian who survived the massacre of his tribe to find himself, essentially, an internal refugee for the next decade.
Isle of Flowers / Ilha das Flores, (1989) short documentary by Jorge Furtado, takes sixth place. The award-winning film takes a witty approach to the history of the tomato and its ‘role’ in contemporary Latin America.
João Moreira Salles makes the list again, this time alongside co-director Kátia Lund, for their film News from a Personal War / Notícias de uma Guerra Particular (1999) in which Rio de Janeiro’s policemen, drug dealers, and shantytown dwellers get trapped into a daily war that knows no winners.
José Padilha and Felipe Lacerda’s Bus 174 / Ônibus 174 (2002) gets the number eight spot on the list. A chronicle exploring what happened in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on June 12th, 2000—Valentine's Day in Brazil—when Bus 174 was highjacked by an armed young man, Sandro do Nascimento, with a dozen passengers.
In Di Cavalcanti (1977) filmmaker Glauber Rocha films the funeral of his friend Di Cavalcanti, one Brazil’s most important artists. The film comes in ninth place. Rounding out the top ten is 1960 short documentary Aruanda by Linduarte Noronha. In the period of the slavery, runaway slaves formed remote communities called “Quilombos.” Aruanda explores those living a primitive life, completely isolated from the Republic of Brazil of the 60's.