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Images of Blacks on Film

Monday, January 22, 1979
9:30 p.m. Barren Lives (Vidas Secas)
Nelson Pereira dos Santos (Brazil, 1963)

Based on a famous novel by Graciliano Ramos, Vidas Secas is a chronicle of the day-to-day existence of a family of drought-ridden migrants who trek along the dusty roads of the impoverished Northeast’s vast Sertao, and whose oppression by the parched landscape and the land-owning class is viewed in the stark and simple tones of great tragedy. Compared to Rocha’s epics of the Sertao, Vidas Secas is a work of classic restraint and direct methods. One has to look to Bunuel’s Land Without Bread for a film as pitiless in its refusal to sentimentalize or romanticize poverty, as uncompromising in its documentation of a culture of hunger and despair.

• Directed by Nelson Pereira dos Santos. Screenplay by dos Santos from the book by Graciliano Ramos. Photographed by Luiz Carlos Barreto and Jose Rosa. With Atila Iorio, Maria Ribeira. (Brazil, 1963, 105 mins, 35mm, English titles, Print Courtesy of New Yorker Films)