In Black Orpheus, Marcel Camus reimagines the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, setting this romantic tragedy in Rio Di Janeiro admist the festivities of Carnival. The narrative follows the complicated love triangle between Orfeu (Breno Mello), Mira (Lourdes de Oliveira) and Eurydice (Marpessa Dawn).
Black Orpheus took out a raft of prestigious awards, including the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, as well as an Academy Award and a Golden Globe for Best Foreign Film. The influential soundtrack by Brazilian composers Antônio Carlos Jobim and Luiz Bonfá is credited with popularising the bossa nova genre, now a mainstay of global jazz music. However, Black Orpheus was criticised in Brazil for its stereotyping of Brazilian culture and idealised portrayal of the favelas.
For contemporary audiences, the film raises important questions around culture and representation, with its complex intersection of a French/Italian/Brazilian co-production, set amongst the Afro-Brazilian community and based on an ancient Greek myth. How does art shape society and culture, particularly in relation to the complexities of racial identities? How does this dynamic interaction manifest itself and change over time? Find out more about these and other questions raised by Black Orpheus in the post-screening panel discussion.
'A riotous, rapturous explosion of sound and color, Black Orpheus is less about Orpheus's doomed love for Eurydice than about Camus's love for cinema at its most gestural and kinetic’ – Washington Post
This screening is part of the SCIENCE. ART. FILM. series presented by the National Film and Sound Archive, Australian National Centre for the Public Awareness of Science and ANU Humanities Research Centre.
Dr Tatiana Bur is an ancient Greek historian specialising in two broad areas: ancient science and technology, as well as ancient myth and religion. Her forthcoming monograph Technologies of the Marvellous in Ancient Greek Religion (Cambridge University Press) explores the intersection of these phenomena in Classical antiquity.
Agha Rita is a PhD student and researcher with the UNESCO Chair in Science Communication for Public Good, located at the Australian National University’s Centre for the Public Awareness of Science. Her research interests are in areas of sexual and reproductive healthcare, feminist science and technology studies, and the sociology of communication in Africa.
Dr Karo Moret-Miranda is an Afro-Cuban historian, early research academic and lecturer in history at the Australian National University, specialising in African studies and African diaspora studies with a focus on race, religion and gender issues. Her research interests include the influence and borrowings of African and Afro-Caribbean culture on Western thought and culture, and vice versa, as well as the relationship between bodies and their narration/description in text and image.
Dr Anna-Sophie Jürgens is a Senior Lecturer in Science Communication at the Australian National Centre for the Public Awareness of Science and the Head of the Popsicule – ANU’s Science in Popular Culture and Entertainment Hub. Her research explores the cultural meanings of science in different pop cultural media.