Euro-Brazilian Carlos Diegues, his film Quilombo is a sweeping historical epic that contains touches of Orishas traditions. Nosa Igbinedion, his film, Oya: Rise of the Orisha, intends to use Orishas traditions within a 1980s Hollywood, action-movie aesthetic (with dashes of 1970s Hong Kong)âit even bills itself as an âAfrican super-heroâ movie. Euro-Brazilian JoĂŁo Daniel Tikhomiroff, his lush, beautiful film (which is in my private collection), The Assailant, delicately and brilliantly weaves Orishas traditions throughout the rich tapestry of legend surrounding the capoeira master Besouro.
And now I hold in my private collection the work of Eliciana Nascimento, her film, The Summer of Gods. It is my first film that is of my new genre: Orisha Cinema. I cannot speak for you but this film is my first work engaged with Orishas traditions that is made by a person that is a not only a direct descendant of the tradition but is also an ordained practitioner of the tradition. This physical/meta-physical authenticity is important to me because to form such a voice in a world completely designed to eradicate/silence such a voice is a success that deserves respect and recognitionânot from the super-heroes of Hollywood but from me, here in the rasx() context.
The assumption here is Eliciana Nascimento will continue make films about Orishas traditions (and any other topic that engages her) and she will grow more to be for Bahia what Julie Dash is for the Gullah Islands. It is not place to lay authoritative guidelines about how this Orisha Cinema should be served. Ms. Nascimento herself lays the groundwork.
In The Summer of Gods she used actual people currently practicing Orishas traditionsâincluding dancers which is another first for me. Unlike the many complaints one can justifiably have for Bollywood dance sequences, I certainly welcome an authentic dance/music interlude in the Orisha Cinema. Ms. Nascimento definitely opens the path toward this. In fact I experienced this very thing live at a recent screening of The Summer of Gods here in Los Angeles.
The same desire that I have to see something like the Mahabharata with James-Cameron Avatar-like production values can be directed toward the Orisha Cinema. On the other extreme of masque, Julie Taymor practical theatrics, preferring abstraction and symbolism over photorealism would serve all of African film and definitely Orisha Cinema. Souleymane CissĂ©, his film, Yeelen, supremely sustains such live-action theatrics. Above all, embracing the opportunity to teach the world about how families of African-based symbol systems work (often driving European forms through syncretism), showing how the very concepts of symbolism and abstraction are foundationally Africanâand how psychologically/metaphysically essential these symbol systems are to African whole healthâwould fill the Orisha Cinema with life blood. In view of these few possibilities and more beyond what I can see, I look forward to what Eliciana Nascimento builds upon and develops with her craft and her art.