Shortcut to understand the Brazilian people

Darcy Ribeiro

Here is a master class on the History of Brazil and the genesis of its population: the documentary “O Povo Brasileiro” (The Brazilian People), based on the book of same name published by anthropologist Darcy Ribeiro in 1995. Subtitled in English, it offers a deep seven-hour approach of a complex topic and several cameo appearances by composers Chico Buarque and Tom Zé and literary critic Antônio Cândido, among many others.

Directed by Isa Grinspum, it is divided in chapters that deal with the influence of the natives (parts  1, 2 and 3),  Portuguese (parts  4, 5 and 6) and Africans (Part 7, 8 and 9). Plus a series of chapters about their interactions (Encontros e Desencontros – parts 10, 11 and 12), and regional specificities  (Brasil Crioulo – parts 13, 14 and 15; Brasil Sertanejo – parts 16, 17 and 18; Brasil Caipira – parts 19, 20 and 21; Brasil Sulino – parts 22, 23 and 24; Brasil Caboclo – parts 25, 26 and 27) and a conclusion (A Invenção do Brasil – parts 28, 29 and 30).

The story on how “O Povo Brasileiro” was written would certainly deserve another documentary. Darcy Ribeiro, an intellectual known for his lust for life and women, was a terminal cancer patient in 1995. He had lost one lung and his doctor told his family that he had a few days left to live. His reaction: he ran away from the hospital to hide at home, in the beach of Maricá, close to Rio de Janeiro, where he intended to finish his book – which he did in 45 days. He still survived for two more years. Surrounded by his many, many (female) admirers.

5 thoughts on “Shortcut to understand the Brazilian people”

  1. I saw the full ten episodes of this great documentary a couple of years ago. It was, and still is, the best documentary on Brazil I’ve ever had the pleasure to see. It gave me tremendous perspective into Brazil as a country and as a culture. My only sadness comes from the fact that there is only this, and nothing more. Wish there was more – a lot more.

    Meanwhile – I did read the book before seeing this, and the English translation is woefully mechanical. It’s hard reading, but still gets the point across.

    Yes, I’d love to hear suggestions on what else I can watch/read about Brazil. Let’s hear them!

  2. Keith, thank you so much for your feedback. I try to offer good sources about the country in English (and might expand in the future, looking for documents in French, Spanish etc.)Hope to have similar posts soon and any suggestion of content will be really appreciated.

  3. There is a book written by João Ubaldo Ribeiro, the title in English is “An Invincible Memory” and in Portuguese it is “Viva o povo Brasileiro”. The original portuguese book and its translation into English were both written by the João Ubaldo, so it was a self-translated book. This information is not mentioned by the editors, once you get the book in English you think it was written in English and not translated into it. A very nice novel. It is a historical novel published in 1984 and its central plot is the construction of Brazilian Identity…I recommend it!

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