This October I attended another Latin Americanist Lunch. The talk, Compulsive Memory: Contemporary Brazilian Cinema and the Military Dictatorship, was given by Dr. Paulo Moreira, a Portuguese professor in the Department of Modern Languages, Literatures, and Linguistics. The talk centered on a genre of films within Brazilian cinema that portray events relating to the military dictatorship that ruled in Brazil from 1964 to 1985. In particular, Dr. Moriera compared the films Four Days in September and Batismo de Sangue (Baptism of Blood) which depict some of the same historical figures and events. Some of the more interesting contrasts between the two films concerned which characters were portrayed in a sympathetic light and the depiction of torture in each film. In Batismo de Sangue the military torturers are portrayed as being malicious to the core, whereas in Four Days in September they are shown as both torturers and fathers, raising the question of how people can justify extremely heinous acts of violence to themselves and their families.
For me, an additional takeaway from the lunch was on the differences between Portuguese and Spanish. As a Spanish language learner, I’ve spoken with many people about how similar Spanish is to Portuguese, and I’ve heard many different opinions on the extent of the similarities. When I was in Spain, my host parents’ daughter-in-law was Brazilian, and she told me about some of the differences between the two languages. According to her, the main differences between Spanish and Portuguese are in pronunciation, with certain letters being replaced by others. I don’t know enough of Portuguese to asses the accuracy of her statements, but there was a noticeable difference in pronunciation between the Portuguese that I saw written and pronounced at the lunch and the Spanish writing system. Though I often found myself able to understand written Portuguese, when Dr. Moreira read the phrases aloud, I was unable to interpret what he said.
Overall, I really enjoyed Dr. Moriera’s lecture. I was introduced to a topic about which I initially knew nothing, and I’ve since developed an interest in learning more about Brazilian history by watching the films discussed.