A Deusa Branca (The White Goddess)
The Brazilian artist, engineer, and architect Flávio de Carvalho (1899–1973) repeatedly attracted attention with provocative actions. In 1931, with his head covered, he approached a Corpus Christi procession; in 1956 he walked though São Paulo wearing a skirt. A newspaper report about a white woman abducted by Indios in the Amazon gave him the idea for his first feature film in the late 1950s. The documentary film The White Goddess (Brazil, 2013) by Alfeu França presents original film footage of the artist’s journey into the Amazon with his film crew. Flávio De Carvalho cast two actresses for the lead and joined an expedition into the depths of the jungle. Although he had meticulously planned this undertaking, he had no script. He hoped the film would result from the material recorded. The goal of the exhibition was the village of a feared tribe of cannibals. The encounter was surprisingly peaceful. The Xirianã even invited them to a banquet with hundreds of grilled monkeys. Flávio De Carvalho was enthusiastic about life in the jungle, studied orchids, recorded the sounds of frogs, and wrote a dictionary of the native language. He was filled with joy and pleasure, he later wrote. His film project, conceived as a mixture of travelogue, ethnographic research, and Surrealist feature film, increasingly became secondary. When Flávio de Carvalho began having an affair with one of the actresses, who had also caught the eye of the expedition’s leader, conflict ensues. On the journey back, the group breaks up. Work on the film is halted. After he returned to his fazenda outside São Paulo, Fláva de Carvalho moved on to other projects. The filmed footage remained in cans for decades and never took shape during his lifetime.
Alfeu França is a filmmaker who has been producing documentaries since 1998. He focuses on historical episodes that have been forgotten by the collective memory, but allow us to draw parallels to contemporary issues of major importance. His films, which include The Awakening of a Giant (2008), Collyer Brothers (2006) and Ota Benga – A Pygmy in America (2002), are mostly based on archival footage and have been featured and screened on festivals worldwide, such as FIDMarseille (France), It's All True (Brazil) and the Margaret Mead Film Festival (US). He has also curated film series for major art centres in Brazil and is a programmer at the Rio de Janeiro International Short Film Festival since 2011. He lives and works in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.