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Initially, Cinema Novo sought to reveal the truth about the country's underdevelopment, in the hope that the Brazilian people would gain a critical consciousness and then participate in the struggle for national liberation.
As Glauber Rocha wrote in his 1965 manifesto, "An Aesthetic of Hunger," "Cinema Novo is …
From 1964 until 1968, the year of the military government's Fifth Institutional Act, which inaugurated a period of extremely repressive military rule, political liberties were restricted and censorship increased, but there was still a degree of space for discussion and debate.
During this period, the focus of Cinema Novo shifted from rural to urban Brazil as filmmakers turned their cameras on the urban middle class, and more specifically on intellectuals like themselves, in an attempt to understand the failure of the Left in 1964.
Paulo César Saraceni's O desafio (1966; The Challenge) deals with a young, anguished, and socially impotent journalist in the period immediately following the coup.
Nelson Pereira dos Santos's Vidas secas (1963; Barren Lives), based on the Graciliano Ramos novel, outlines the plight of a peasant family during a period of drought, including its conflict with an absentee landowner.
Ruy Guerra's Os fuzis (1964; The Guns) concerns soldiers who guard a landowner's food warehouse to keep its contents from starving peasants.
The final phase of Cinema Novo ran from 1968 until around 1972.