Memories of Prison | Chicago Reader

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Graciliano Ramos, a leftist intellectual from northern Brazil, was incarcerated in the mid-1930s by the Vargas regime, first in a Rio jail for dissidents and later in an island gulag for criminals. This 1983 feature by Nelson Pereira dos Santos adapts Ramos's prison memoirs, and while its first half indulges in too many ideological debates to have much of a dramatic thrust, it sets the stage for the protagonist's gradual transformation from aloof theorist to compassionate chronicler of his fellow inmates, whom he considered a cross section of Brazilian society. Pereira, a leader of Brazil's politically charged Cinema Novo movement, undoubtedly sees something of himself in Ramos—an artist prodded to action by conscience and circumstance—and in documenting a small triumph over dictatorship, the film becomes one as well. With Carlos Vereza as Ramos.

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