Brazil’s oldest institution for the preservation and restoration of audivisual history, the Cinemateca Brasileira based in São Paulo, has suffered yet another major setback when its main warehouses were hit by fire on 30 July, probably due to a technical malfunction. Just last November, poor working conditions led the workers of the Cinemateca to hold a general strike to combat the continuing political negligence, making a proper functioning of the institution nearly impossible. Sadly, this week’s events mirror those of the recent past. In 2016, the Cinemateca premises were already struck by fire, and in 2018 the National Museum in Rio de Janeiro lost most of its structure to fire. Brazilian public cultural institutions, with the Cinemateca at the forefront, have become symbols in the struggle against the current administration led by Jair Bolsonaro and its systematic threath to the country’s cultural fabric.
For more than a year, former employees and supporters of Brazil's national archive warned that it was under threat of fire. Several Brazilian filmmakers spoke out, including Kleber Mendonça Filho: “After the fire at the Museu Nacional in Rio and multiple requests for help from the film community—I talked about it 20 days ago in Cannes—nothing was done. It doesn’t look like this was an accident.” While the full extent of the damage inflicted to the vast Cinemateca archive has yet to be revealed, we stand in support however with the ongoing struggle to preserve the audiovisual memory of Brazil.