Remembering The Brilliant Brazilian Actor\Director Milton Gonçalves

Brilliant Brazilian actor\director Milton Gonçalves passed away from a stroke in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on May 30, 2022.
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Photos: Paulo Mileno\Wikimedia Commons

Brilliant Brazilian actor\director Milton Gonçalves passed away from a stroke in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on May 30, 2022. On July 15, 2020, after he returned from Renascença Clube, a historic Black club in Rio de Janeiro, he began to feel ill.

Milton, like nearly every actor, started in the theater and had a brilliant career in film spanning approximately fifty films, including in Hollywood with Kickboxer 3: The Art of War (1992), among other international productions. He participated in more than forty soap operas as an actor and he also was a soap-opera at the largest television station in Latin America, Rede Globo, at a time when only he and Luiz Antonio Pilar were Black TV directors.

Gonçalves was an icon in Brazilian television and much has been said about his importance. I will focus on a facet seldom discussed after his death—his position as a Black actor and his public voice. I consider this his greatest legacy.

Firstly, the Brazil that Milton Gonçalves was born into in1933 and where Milton left us in 2022, is another country because he was a pioneer as an African-Brazilian actor and he fought to transform the social imaginary. It is impossible to tell the story of Brazilian television without mentioning Milton Gonçalves. Not even white supremacy can wipe it out.

Although very well-known, he never stayed in his comfort zone. Milton was at the Syndicate of Artists from Rio de Janeiro. Milton was a critic, including, criticizing the Rede Globo. Who publicly criticizes their own employer?

Today, much is said about empowerment. For this new generation, Milton Gonçalves was considered an icon in the struggle. In the soap opera, Cabana do Pai Tomás (1970), white actor Sérgio Cardoso played a Black character, and Milton witnessed this historic blackface.

In the classic documentary, A Negação do Brasil (2000), directed by Joel Zito Araújo, Milton criticized Cabana do Pai Tomás and other Rede Globo productions set in the suburbs of Rio de Janeiro and Bahia, the state with the biggest Black population, because not even the extras were Black.

However, Rede Globo's progress on racial issues is irrefutable. Today, a new blackface would be impossible.

On Youtube, there is a video of actor and director José Wilker talking about how TV Globo imposed itself as a vehicle of mass culture based on the studies of Mein Kampf and following the guidelines of the Nazi party.

According to Wilker, paradoxically, when the TV is facing these problems daily, TV ends up modernizing itself about the public debate.

Furthermore, Milton publicly addressed the controversy of the stereotypical roles awarded to Black actors. I witnessed him speak during the Biennial of the União Nacional dos Estudantes, held in Rio de Janeiro in 2007. For him, as an actor, the villain is more important because the villian is a targeted character.

Unfortunately, we no longer have Milton Gonçalves among us. The life of Milton Gonçalves represents the transformation of a Black man who left the countryside to live in the metropolises of the country. However, he embodied a character that only he could represent for us. Now he has become an entity in the celestial bodies.

*Paulo Mileno is an actor, cultural producer, writer, editorial advisor of Africa and Africanities Magazine and he was researcher in the Nucleus of African Philosophy at the State University of Rio de Janeiro (Brazil). Mileno also writes to Observatório da Imprensa (São Paulo - Brazil), Brasil de Fato (São Paulo - Brazil), Jornal do Brasil (Rio de Janeiro - Brasil), Black History Month (London - England), Ufahamu: A Journal of Black Studies from Los Angeles University -UCLA (Los Angeles - USA), San Francisco National Black Newspaper (San Francisco - USA), Black Star News (New York - USA) and Africa Business (Cape Town - South Africa). Reach him via pmileno@gmail.com

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