Brazilian cinema suffered irreplaceable losses on Thursday night, as a fire broke out at a storage facility at the Cinemateca Brasileira. The warehouse, which is located in the Vila Leopoldina district of São Paulo, stored over a million documents from state-owned Embrafilme, along with 250,000 Brazilian films from years past.
According to Brazilian Fire Chief, Karina Paula Moreira, “the fire started in one of the historical film collection rooms on the first floor, which is divided into three rooms” and led to a quarter of the buildings roof to collapse. Although police are still investigating the the cause of the fire, the event is being hailed by many in the Brazilian community as no accident. The Cinemateca Brasileira is one of the many cultural institutions across the country that relies on government funding. And one that was essentially deserted, as all the technical and firefighting staff had their contracts terminated in 2020 by the Brazilian government. Just earlier this month, a federal prosecutor by the name of Gustavo Torres filed a lawsuit noting the financial neglect the institution has suffered for decades and the imminent danger posed by a fire.
After what transpired, João Doria, the governor of São Paulo, took to Twitter to state his frustration over the government’s “crime against the culture of the country”, one that will lead to “the gradual death of national culture.” For the institution had already suffered fires before in 1957, 1969 and 1982. Additionally, torrential rain in 2016 caused permanent damage to its collection — cementing the need to help maintain Brazil’s cinematic history. With president Jair Bolsonaro disbanding the Ministry of Culture back in 2019, these type of threats seem only imminent at this point.
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