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‘Crime against culture’: Brazil’s Historic Cinematheque is destroyed by fire

Citizens from all over São Paulo gather to express their anguish after Brazilian film archive is brought down in flames by an accidental fire.

On the night of the 29th of July, the famous Brazilian cinematheque was tragically consumed by flames after a supposed short-circuit in the building’s air conditioning system. The 6,500 square meter building, located in the Vila Leopoldina neighborhood in São Paulo, was considered the largest film archive in Latin America. Founded in 1946, the institution contained more than one million historical documents and materials, as well as over 250,000 rolls of film.

According to authorities, about 25% of the structure was affected by the fire. Although fortunately the accident inflicted no human casualties, the extent of the damage to the artifacts is still unknown. The building had apparently been in disuse since the beginning of 2020, after all of its employees had been let go due to the pandemic.

Several Brazilians became extremely upset with the lack of care and resources being put towards the cinematheque prior to the incident, causing many to believe that the real cause of the fire was the government’s negligence and disregard for the institution. Employees had reportedly protested against the organization in 2020, alleging that the institution was going through a crisis, and that the building was not being maintained in acceptable conditions.

Two weeks after the occurrence, on Saturday, August 7th, citizens gathered in front of the historical site to protest their dissatisfaction. Protestors carried signs that read messages such as: “SOS Cinemateca” and “Respeito ao direito à memória”. Others decided to join in the protest through social media platforms such as Instagram and twitter with the hashtag #soscinemateca.


“Manifestantes FAZEM ATO Em Defesa Da Cinemateca EM São Paulo.” G1, 7 Aug. 2021,

Folha. “Incêndio ATINGE DEPÓSITO Da Cinemateca BRASILEIRA Na Zona OESTE De São Paulo.” Folha De S.Paulo, Folha De S.Paulo, 30 July 2021,

Kohn, Eric. “Tragedy Strikes with Historic Brazilian Cinematheque in Flames as Community LASHES out: 'An Indescribable Pain'.” IndieWire, IndieWire, 30 July 2021,

-, Por Agência Sindical, et al. “Ato Pede Preservação Da Cinemateca.” Agência Sindical, 9 Aug. 2021,


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