Landscapes of Memory (O sertao das memorias)

Director: Jose Araujo
Screenwriters: Jose Araujo

Institute History

  • 1997 Sundance Film Festival


Araújo’s debut feature crystallizes the raw materials of his native Sertão (Brazil’s drought-ridden northeast) into an allegory so riveting it resembles cinema vérité made by an all-seeing god. Maria and Antero are ancient peasants whose paths cross in the white-hot center of events beyond their control: injustice, prophecies, suffering, visions, and struggle. On the one hand is crushing poverty; on the other, insatiable greed. Such is the eternal disequilibrium of the Sertão. In the film’s mythic present, the heroic pair of Maria and Antero manage to evade the nefarious “Dragon” and reach the promised land (but only if the audience believes in magic).

Araújo combines unflinching camerawork (by Mendes, cinematographer for Diegues, Guerra, and Pereira dos Santos) and mesmerizing aural tonalities (by legendary Nana Vasconcelos) into an hallucinatory experience. Old Testament texts mingle with the folktales of the Sertão. Landscapes of Memory etches a spiritual X ray of northeastern Brazil onto our retinas with black-and-white clarity. Part religious allegory, part political history, part autobiography (Araújo grew up in Miraima where the film is shot and studied for the priesthood in nearby Fortaleza), Landscapes brings a romantic originality to contemporary cinematic depictions of Brazil.

— B.Ruby Rich

Screening Details

Sundance Film Festival Awards

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