Carlos Diegues | Quilombo

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Carlos Diegues

Carlos Diegues is a prolific Brazilian director. His films are associated with Brazil's Cinema Novo movement.


Quilombo (1984) (pronounced key-LAHM-bo) is the story of a nation founded by escaped slaves in 1500's Brazil. Such nations were called Quilombos; this film is the true story of one of the most famous, the Quilombo do Palmares. Such communities have only rarely been depicted in film; one also thinks of Julie Dash's Daughters of the Dust (1992), a more avant-garde film about a Gullah community in Carolina composed of descendants of escaped slaves.

Quilombo shows us an entire way of life in the 1500's. In this it reminds one of John Ford's historical films, which also constitute almost ethnographic documents about life in a particular time and place. Like Ford's films, this is extraordinarily rich in atmosphere. Also like Ford, it is filled with public gatherings, rituals, and publicly performed songs, all designed to evoke an era's mood and life style. As in Ford, most shots show considerable visual interest. Both Ford and Diegues unroll an ongoing visual spectacle, one that continually pleases with its visual beauty as it informs about a different era's way of life.

The film evokes other cinematic traditions, as well. Unlike most of Ford's movies, this is in brilliant color. It has elaborate, imaginative costumes and sets by Luis Carlos Ripper. These transport us almost into another world. In this, the film resembles such color spectacles as The Color of Pomegranates (1969) by Sergei Paradjanov, and films it influenced such as Mohsen Makhmalbaf's Gabbeh (1996) and Martin Scorsese's Kundun (1997). All of these films look admiringly at an exotic community, one drenched in elaborate customs and vividly colored costumes.

Quilombo is lively and entertaining. People expecting a sociological tract here will be surprised. The film is consistently vivid, with lots of interesting new plot developments. The film has lots of humor, and odd interesting sidelights on the characters' lives.