Cecilia Sordi Campos finds reconnection with herself through samba

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Photo: A Repulsa de Guaraci VII © Cecilia Sordi Campos.

Named moving image winner of OpenWalls Arles 2021, Campos’s film Samba de Lamento explores the different layers of her hybrid cultural identity

“Since I migrated to Australia, the concept of home, or the absence of it, has become a recurring theme in my lived experiences,” says 32-year-old Brazilian photographer Cecilia Sordi Campos. “I have always felt deprived of a sense of identity and a place of belonging, both geographically and metaphorically. Then, when my relationship separation happened, and I had to move from the house I loved, I felt stripped of home once more.” 

Campos was recently named moving image winner of OpenWalls Arles 2021 with her film Samba de Lamento. The film is part of Campos’s wider project, Tem Bigato Nessa Goiaba, which muses on the parallels between her migration from Brazil to Australia and her separation from her partner of ten years. In the project, Campos draws on the often invisible, but deeply-felt, emotional transitions that she experienced after the end of her marriage. “But I also focused on exploring the layers that form my identity as a hybrid of all my cultural influences,” she notes.

Samba de Lamento © Cecilia Sordi Campos. Direction and editing: Cecilia Sordi Campos. Cinematography: Guillym Davenport. Song: O Canto das Três Raças by Clara Nunes.

Shot in black and white entirely in her back garden, the film begins with Campos hand washing clothes and hanging them on the line to dry. Later, she lights a fire, symbolic of “emphatically throwing the past into the flames”; as it burns, clips of the artist dancing the samba are interspersed. With a little cinematographic help from a friend, Campos wrote the script and performed the film by herself. It is currently being screened at Galerie Huit Arles until 26 September 2021.

“As most of my projects draw from a narrative of the self, I have extensively employed self-portraiture. So I wanted this film to convey an idea of a ‘moving self-portrait’,” she explains. She chose black and white because the imagery needed “to allude to a period of melancholia and seductiveness, almost as if peering into a recollection of an existence.”

Campos’ need for reconnection with herself led her towards samba. Now, it’s something she’s taking forward with her, beyond this project. “It was through the movement of my body for this film that I allowed myself to feel pleasure in the banal once more,” she says, warmly. “By dancing, I assert my Brazilian heritage and embrace my hybrid identity, wherever I may be.”


Samba de Lamento is being screened at Galerie Huit Arles as part of OpenWalls Arles 2021 until 26 September 2021

Joanna Cresswell

Joanna L. Cresswell is a writer and editor based in Brighton. She has written on photography and culture for over 40 international magazines and journals, and held positions as editor for organisations including The Photographers' Gallery, Unseen Amsterdam and Self Publish, Be Happy. She recently completed an MA in comparative literature and criticism at Goldsmiths College, University of London