Regarding Memory and Neglect
Ricardo Martensen (director)
What’s left of us after we die? Our bones? Our memories? How long do these traces of existence remain on Earth? By presenting three different stories in São Paulo, this film questions our memories. The narratives and characters force us to face issues that Brazil, in 2020, insists on forgetting.
Within the city of São Paulo, different locations will have us question our memories and, at the same time, force us to face issues that Brazil, in 2020, insists on forgetting. The Vila Formosa Cemetery is the largest Christian cemetery in the world, with over 1.5 million graves. Samir manages everything behind a counter. The walls are lined with huge logbooks. Here we witness the bureaucracy of death. They are funerals, exhumations, searching for graves. Names don't seem to represent people anymore – they are now just cataloging tools for a huge repository. Gradually, however, we realize that, within the huge logbooks, there are real stories. Memories. The movie then moves on to an open field. We see a van. Inside, half-open coffins are stacked on top of each other. What follows is an entirely inhumane burial. The bodies, naked and in precarious coffins, are thrown into shallow graves. In the logbooks, they are referred to as numbers. This happens every week in the Perus Cemetery – the main burial grounds for destitute persons in São Paulo. This is where we listen to Toninho’s statement, the cemetery manager from 1976 to 1991. Little by little he reveals that the cemetery was also used to deliberately hide the bodies of victims of State violence during the Brazilian military dictatorship. Toninho discovered a mass grave there. On the opposite side of town, the Center for Forensic Anthropology and Archeology, CAAF, is a place for remembering. Forensic experts analyze 1,049 skeletal remains taken from the mass grave. They are looking for 41 individuals who disappeared between 1971 and 1974. Although the search focuses on 41 people, all 1,049 remains are analyzed. And it becomes plain to see that, in addition to the abandonment after their death, all were victims of neglect and violence in life. A broken femur bone that mended incorrectly indicates the individual never had access to proper medical care. A set of bones carries the marks of childhood malnutrition. Bullet holes in skulls indicate executions. We then realize that many people who never had a voice in life, after nearly 50 years of their deaths, are finally expressing themselves through their bones. We then meet Edson Teles, the Center's coordinator. He reveals that research done at CAAF is under serious risk. Brazilian government is trying to cut the laboratory funds. A political battle is going on, and Edson is not afraid to face it. When he was 4, he saw his parents being tortured by the dictatorship. As a professor, he researches Memories and Neglect.
Ricardo Martensen is a director, screenwriter, and editor. Graduated in journalism he got his Master’s degree in Documentary Production at University of Salford (UK). Since 2012, he runs an independent production company in São Paulo, Brazil, producing documentary content for TV and cinema. His first feature, Cine São Paulo (2017), won Best Documentary Award at the Festival Biarritz Amérique Latine, and was selected for festivals such as AFI DOCS, It's All True, FIDBA, among others. The film premiered in theaters and on network television in 2019 in Brazil. Ricardo is currently putting finishing touches on a documentary for HBO Latin America, had a project selected for the Berlinale Doc Station lab in 2019, and the project Regarding Memory and Neglect is being supported by IDFA Bertha Fund and Sundance Documentary Fund