Sao Paulo (AFP)

A fire devastated Thursday a warehouse of the Brazilian Cinematheque of Sao Paulo which contained some 2,000 copies of films, an incident considered by the filmmakers as a "tragedy foretold" after what they denounce as errors in the cultural policy of the Bolsonaro government .

For more than two hours, about fifty firefighters fought the flames which destroyed a large part of the building, according to images broadcast on television.

The disaster broke out at 6:00 p.m. local time during an air conditioning maintenance operation, firefighters said, adding that at least two movie theaters and another containing archives were destroyed.

The rapid spread of the fire was due to acetate films, an extremely flammable material, according to local media.

The burned-down building is not the headquarters of the Cinémathèque, which is located in another district of Sao Paulo.

The warehouse housed copies of films, many of them rare and sometimes in better condition than the originals, according to specialists.

In recent years, four fires and a flood have affected various buildings of this cultural institution, founded in 1940.

Filmmakers, artists and employees have denounced for months a policy of "dismantling" the Cinematheque by the government of far-right president Jair Bolsonaro.

In July 2020, the Sao Paulo public prosecutor launched legal action against the federal government for "abandoning" the Cinemathèque, questioning the withholding of resources and the absence of a manager due to a legal imbroglio.

The following month, the institution ceased to function and 41 officials resigned.

In April of this year, a "Manifesto of the Brazilian Cinematheque workers" warned of the "risk of fire", due to the lack of care for "the material, the equipment, the databases and the buildings. ".

# photo1

Thursday's fire was "a tragedy foretold," cinema critic Lauro Escorel said on Globonews.

Filmmaker Kléber Mendonça denounced at the beginning of July to AFP in Cannes the "sabotage of the system of support for culture" and the closure of the Cinémathèque.

"It is as if the country no longer had a family album. It is not only a place of deposit. It is a living place, with the memory of the country", had said the director of " Aquarius "and" Bacurau ".

© 2021 AFP