NOVOCINE
PT

07

FORDLANDIA MALAISE 2019, PT, 40 min


a film by Susana Sousa Dias

Fordlandia Malaise is a film about the memory and the present of Fordlandia, the company town founded by Henry Ford in the Amazon rain forest in 1928. His aim was to break the British rubber monopoly and produce this material in Brazil for his car production in the United States. Today, the remains of construction testify to the scale of the failure of this neocolonialist endeavor that lasted less then a decade.
Nowadays, Fordlandia is a space suspended between times (20th and 21st centuries), between utopia and dystopia, between visibility and invisibility: architectural buildings of steel, glass and masonry still remain in use while traces of indigenous life left no marks on the ground.
Although Fordlandia is well-known due to the short lasting Fordian period, one must not forget the history either before or after.
Giving voice to the inhabitants who claim the right to write their own story and reject the ghost town label, Fordlandia Malaise blends together archive imagery, drone footage, tales and narratives, myths and songs.




Text by Joana de Sousa

"Our time specializes in creating absences: of the meaning of living in society, of the very meaning of the experience of life. This generates a very big intolerance towards those who are still able to experience the pleasure of being alive, of dancing, of singing. And it is full of little constellations of people scattered around the world who dance, sing, make it rain. The kind of zombie humanity we are being summoned to join cannot tolerate such pleasure, such enjoyment of life. So they preach the end of the world as a possibility to make us give up our own dreams. And my provocation about postponing the end of the world is exactly to always be able to tell one more story. If we can do that, we are postponing the end."

Written by Ailton Krenak (environmentalist, journalist, educator, writer and indigenous leadership of the Krenak people), in the book "Ideias para adiar o fim do mundo", published by Companhia das Letras in 2020.

Henry Ford, founder of the brand that bears his name, had a utopian vision of the future. For him, in this bright and prosperous tomorrow, industry and the life of every individual would be fully integrated into each other. Workers would work in factories for high wages and eight-hour shifts, with enough free time and economic power to consume the products they produced, thus feeding the very industry in which they worked. These workers would be led by people with vision, who would provide an integrated answer to all their needs, leaving them free to work and consume. For Ford, there was nothing that could not be shaped by human labor and will. Including the human being themself.

In 1926, the Ford Industrial Company of Brazil began construction of the project that would be called Fordlândia. This was started because Ford needed to create a latex production center to supply its tire factories in the USA. A city with North American features was built in the middle of the Amazon jungle. Besides the latex extraction and manufacturing complex, Ford provided all the necessary infrastructure for his North American workers to have a full and happy life within his ideal of society. A foreign body was implanted in the landscape with apparent efficiency and speed. So much so, that the project was taken as an example by capitalists and industrialists alike.

But in fact, from the very beginning that foreign body met resistance. The American managers were not prepared for the Amazonian climate, several succumbed to yellow fever and malaria. Poor knowledge of tropical agriculture meant that the fields planted with rubber trees were hard hit by pests and other issues. The Brazilian workers were forced into hard labor and to consume typically North American food and other products, which were not well accepted. Alcohol, women, tobacco and football games were forbidden and the workers created a refuge on the edge of the city, called "Innocence Island", with bars, discos and brothels. After assuming the failure of the project, the Ford company sold the city to the Brazilian government in 1945. Fordlândia, then abandoned by those who created it but with infrastructures still in good condition, is occupied by some inhabitants of neighboring towns.

Fordlândia Malaise arises from an invitation to Susana de Sousa Dias to participate in an artist residency organized by the Suspended Spaces collective, whose name reflects their focus of interest: the thinking and creation about what they call "suspended spaces", that have not fulfilled the function for which they were built or constructed. Fordlândia, suffocated by the failure of an extractivist utopia, is seen as a depleted resource, a ghost town. But what Susana de Sousa Dias finds is, in fact, a landscape interpreted by different narratives. There are other dreams for the future there. But, after all, which are the dreamers to whom history has given more importance?

In the tension between plural pasts and futures, Susana de Sousa Dias deconstructs the ethnographic film by provoking a mutation of the archives, from order and hierarchy to energetic chaos and stroboscopic ritual. An eye that is as much machine as a hummingbird, gives us a glimpse of that place where voices tell us about the utopias that were born and died there. A place cursed by a battered woman, who is Nature itself. But the strange body, efficient and arrogant, is expelled by the very wound it opens. In Fordlândia Malaise, there is a future born out of the apocalypse and an archive that mixes with prayer, that mixes with ghost, that turns into forró.

In the tension between plural pasts and futures, Susana de Sousa Dias deconstructs the ethnographic film by provoking a mutation of the archives, from order and hierarchy to energetic chaos and stroboscopic ritual. An eye that is as much machine as a hummingbird, gives us a glimpse of that place where voices tell us about the utopias that were born and died there. A place cursed by a battered woman, who is Nature itself. But the strange body, efficient and arrogant, is expelled by the very wound it opens. In Fordlândia Malaise, there is a future born out of the apocalypse and an archive that mixes with prayer, that mixes with ghost, that turns into forró.



Song "Mãe-Terra", interpreted by Júnior Brito.
Produced by Agremiação Folclórica de Fordlândia, 2021.




directing, photography & editing SUSANA DE SOUSA DIAS sound ANTÓNIO DE SOUSA DIAS, SUSANA DE SOUSA DIAS sound mix PEDRO GÓIS production ANSGAR SCHAEFER / KINTOP