Febre do Sertão – Rosângela Rennó’s Fever Dream of the Backlands

Rosângela Rennó, Febre do Sertão (Savannah Fever), 2008, two-channel video, 21:04. Photo: Aaron Igler.

Rosângela Rennó, Febre do Sertão (2008). Photo: Aaron Igler.

By Jeffrey Bussmann

For reasons that will be obvious to readers acquainted with the work, João Guimarães Rosa’s Grande Sertão: Veredas rightly belongs on any list of unfilmable novels. Nevertheless, it has not inhibited the production of two cinematic adaptations. The artist Rosângela Rennó (b. 1962, Belo Horizonte; lives and works in Rio de Janeiro) appropriated portions of footage from both films to make the dynamic two-channel video Febre do Sertão (2008).

The 1965 film Grande Sertão attempts the fool’s errand of shoehorning Guimarães Rosa’s sprawling story into a ninety minute cinematic format. Naturally, the epic and meandering narrative, qualities inherent to the novel, are entirely lost. Some twenty years later Rede Globo produced the miniseries Grande Sertão: Veredas starring Tony Ramos and Bruna Lombardi as Riobaldo and Diadorim, respectively. This television adaptation, benefitting from marquee actors and Globo’s production finesse, achieves a certain grandeur in its own right. Lacking from both adaptations is any effort to preserve Riobaldo’s first-person storytelling. Continue reading