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Sound Moving Pictures : Science : Exploration

University of Pennsylvania Museum of
Archaeology & Anthropology

Film Archivist

Kate Pourshariati


Screening in Tadarimana - Credit Sylvia Cauiby Novaes & Edgar da Cunha
- Screening in Tadarimana – Credit Sylvia Cauiby Novaes & Edgar da Cunha

In this article, the case has been made that the film Matto Grosso is unique and unusual in several respects, especially in its technical history,[1] and in its presentation of content.  The path to its obscurity may have been set by several factors:  the fact that it is not feature length, its lack of financial success, and perhaps mostly its crossbred mixture of science and adventure. After early screenings it became a hidden museum artifact. After managing restoration of the remaining 16mm print, thanks to a grant from the National Film Presentation Foundation, the Penn Museum is currently producing a published version in digital format to make it widely available.[2] In 2011, thanks to connection made with the archives by Dr. Greg Urban of Penn Museum, the Brazilian anthropologists Dr.Sylvia Caiuby Novaes and Dr Edgar Teodoro da Cunha took the films to the village of Tadarimana to show them to a group of Bororo people there, over the course of three nights in June. The films were apparently very well liked, with most lively discussion around the animals. (Cunha and Novaes 2012). She and her colleague Edgar Teodoro da Cunha were able to learn that the village where the film was shot was likely Pogubu Çoreu, which is located about 10 or 15 kilometres from the city of Fátima. There was further excitement when “Raimundo Itogoga, a great Bororo leader from the village of Tadarimana”, identified the man with face paint seen in close up was identified by as a significant elder “ a bari called Tiriacu Areguiri Ópogoda”.  Enlisting the help of Beatriz Kiga,  Edgar and she were able to get translations of the un-translated Boe Wadáru (Bororo) dialogue in the film, which will be used as optional  English subtitles in the Museum’s new DVD release of the film. In this we can realize the greatest unexpected benefit of use of these technologies- cultural heritage for the communities where the films were made.

Tiriacu Areguiri Ópogoda
- Tiriacu Areguiri Ópogoda

The age of large individually sponsored expeditions has come to an end, and very remote parts of the world have been traveled. Filmmakers from international source communities now produce their own documentaries, giving essential indigenous perspectives to the expanding universe of knowledge.  As archivists, we have arrived at a thrilling time in which we can sort through existing collections and bring out forgotten historic materials, and make them accessible as never before.

Additional notes: Regarding the spelling of Mato Grosso, Brazil and Matto Grosso: In 1931 the region of Brazil in which the film takes place was generally Anglicized by Americans and Europeans by adding an extra “t” in the middle of Mato, however since that time common usage has returned to the original Brazilian form.

[1]It is understood in the archives field that further examples may come to light.

[2]In addition to the restored print, the film will be accompanied by two other extras; one, the surviving tinted 35mm nitrate parts of the film still held by Vincenzo Petrullo until his death in 1991, and two, a copy of a little film called The Hoax (1932). The Hoax, directed by Floyd Crosby during the same expedition, was rediscovered in 2010 in the collections of the Human Studies Film Archive (Smithsonian). The working title of this humorous 9 minute film was The Kid, and was referred to in field notes by that name.