26 postcards for Dica
Exchanging care across troubled times
For thirty years, Dica received postcards from Jacy. Behind the idyllic pictures, a violent history of military dictatorship lurks as an unmentioned presence.
Postcards are open messages. Envelopeless, they are useless as receptacles for secrets. They are in fact a means of sharing, of sending a slice of the world, of expressing care for someone you cherish. Through their imagery, postcards embody stereotypical experiences – a tourist spot, an ideal day – and the very idea of a “postcard” evokes a sense of something beautiful, but somehow also artificial.
For over thirty years, two friends exchanged postcards. Jacy left Ceará for Rio de Janeiro, but never ceased to inhabit the imagery and relationships of her hometown. In her messages to Dica, we find a dispersed sense of the passage of time and movement through her allusion to both celebratory dates and fleeting events. Throughout the years, the postcards become the mainstay of their friendship.
From 1964 to 1985, Brazil was under a military dictatorship marked by violence and countless abuses perpetrated in the name of a nationalist and anti-communist project. Jacy and Dica exchanged their postcards for this whole period; like most of the Brazilian population, they did not instigate any major resistance to the dictatorship, nor did they identify with the regime. Perhaps this is why mention of national events in the messages is always somewhat guarded: those facts belong to a different layer of reality, over which they have no influence.
Brazil, in the macro sense, and the Brazilian people in general, seem not to be surprised by the atrocities committed by their governments. This violence has somehow become part of our history and our daily life. In a way, Jacy and Dica’s exchange illustrates this normalization.
Perhaps it is no accident, then, that the postcard images are disconnected from the disclosed text that they convey. I experienced something similar when making this film. I had to try out different ways of bringing the postcard images from paper to digital, first by scanning, then photographing and filming them with a digital camera. Everything turned out flat and still. It felt like immobilizing the long relationship between those two women.
The digital algorithm – zeros and ones that seek redundancy, that aim to decrease their need for processing by perceiving the images in time as repetition – creates an artificiality distinct from the artificiality of the postcards. The cards picture visual clichés in deep colors, creating an aura of desire around the places that they portray.
This plurality is part of the social process of investigating what configures us as a people.
Eventually, we were led to shoot in 16mm f. At each interaction with light, the silver salts of each frame on a strip of film stir in an unpredictable way, 24 times a second. Each frame, then, is unique, which gives that feeling of “fluctuation” experienced when viewing cinematographic images, even if the shot is fixed. The landscapes then gained new dynamics, as if the photochemical process restored their movement.
Within what has been discussed in the contemporary cinematographic panorama in Brazil, this film is not isolated. As with many other productions, it comes from the desire to share something even with no financing or guarantees of distribution. This plurality is part of the social process of investigating what configures us as a people. Even if we start with very small things, very ephemeral, they allow us to glimpse breaches in the recent past that have been eagerly disputed by the totalitarian powers of these days. The arts in general are manifesting themselves through some kind of vitalist movement, of discovering better interactions with fertile soil and varieties of species, and of finding renewed expressions in the affirmation of life. They actually remind me of an idea of Brazil.
“Where is Brazil?” asks the poet Carlos Drummond de Andrade. This film somehow asks itself this same question. The friendship of the two women is based on a care and tenderness that survive their few encounters. They are separated by more than two thousand kilometers within a continental country. All this is made possible by the mail – even though the post is a strategic apparatus of these agglomerations with policed borders that we call countries. But now they even want to sell off the Brazilian Post. In fact, they want to do away with everything. So maybe the question should be “where did Brazil go?”, that country where Maiakovski said there once lived a happy man.