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Gabriel Guedes, ‘19: Related By Blood

Project Date:
Project Date: Summer 2019

I completed a 15-minute film that uses the relationships between my extended family and the military dictatorship that ruled Brazil from 1964 to 1985 to consider the ways ideology is passed down through the family.

About the Project

My Benenson award allowed me to complete a film that observes the ways in which ideology is passed down through the family by looking specifically at the relationships between my extended family and the military dictatorship that ruled Brazil from 1964 to 1985. The film also visually represents my journey through a city where I experienced a new sense of alienation due to my absence and political development.

When I arrived in Brazil, I had a rough outline of questions that I wanted to ask and a list of people that I wanted to interview. The interviews would have benefited from a strictly defined set of questions so that I could employ a more parallel structure in the film rather than having one person talk for an extended period. I felt like what I learned was essentially what I expected: that the position of privilege enjoyed by my extended family allowed them to pass through the dictatorship unscathed and made them sympathetic toward a leader who would protect their class interests (i.e. Bolsonaro). However, the lack of rigidity in the questions made it difficult to draw an explicit line between their experience during the dictatorship and their current right-wing sympathies, except for when they offered it up themselves.

One of the most difficult aspects of this film was the editing. When I proposed the film I expected it to be around 15 minutes, which is about what it ended up, but I had to edit that down from approximately seven hours of audio. The result was that the film’s length depended on limiting my purview mostly to discourse on the dictatorship (with the exception of the final interview with my aunt, who was born afterward and provides a prime example of “ideological lineage”). As such, I discarded elements like the immigration of my great-grandparents from Europe, the religious qualities of my family, the circumstances around my parents’ immigration to the U.S., and more detailed opinions about contemporary politics. In each case, I was discarding an aspect that informed their ideology, and perhaps a different interview approach would have allowed more of those through-lines to appear in the film. As it stands, the outcome is a 15-minute film that I will explore submitting to competitions and festivals. Completing this film gives me good momentum, having allowed me to brush up on my editing and production skills, going into my Ph.D. program.

About the Artist

I grew up in suburban Maryland. Both of my parents immigrated from Brazil, and I had visited my extended family in Rio de Janeiro regularly until 2014. My parents fostered my interest in film since I was young, but I began exploring aspects related to history, aesthetics, and production when I was in high school. I came to Duke with the intent to study math, but this continued interest in film and a new interest in critical theory led to me the Global Cultural Studies major and the AMI certificate, whereby I was able to combine my desires for analysis and production. This fall I will begin a Ph.D. in Film and Media Studies at the University of Pittsburgh.