Dos Santos broke into the Brazilian motion picture industry as an assistant director in the early 1950s, after having taught himself the basics of 16mm production. Although he is primarily known as a director, he has also worked as an actor, editor, producer, and scriptwriter--he generally scripts the films that he directs. Because he has successfully undertaken a wide range of styles and themes, dos Santos has proven himself one of the most innovative directors in the rich history of Brazilian film. Dos Santos adopted a neorealist style for his first feature, "Rio, 40 Graus/Rio, 40 Degrees" (1954). The film is a landmark in the history of Brazilian cinema, one of the earliest feature from his land to realistically and critically examine the issue of poverty. In addition, the film's shoe-string financing and low-cost mode of production proved that artistically and socially ambitious works could be made outside the studio system. In his political allegories "Fome de Amor" and "Azyllo Muito Louco," the director abandoned neorealist precepts in favor of artistic experimentation with non-naturalistic styles. Perhaps the best known of his allegorical films is the anthropological fiction feature "Como Era Gostoso o Meu Frances/How Tasty Was My Little Frenchman" (1971), an offbeat depiction of the conquest and colonization of Brazil in which the Tupinamba Indians figuratively and literally cannibalize their European enemies. In the 1970s and 80s, dos Santos made four features in an attempt to create a "popular cinema" that would be an authentic reflection of Brazilian popular culture. "O Amuleto de Ogum/The Amulet of Ogum" (1975) tells a story of criminal gangs that operate under the magic spell of 'umbanda,' an Afro-Brazilian religion. Dos Santos explores racial themes in "Tenda dos Milagres" (1975) and "Jubiaba" (1985), which are adapted from the Jorge Amado novels of the same names. The commercially successful "Estrada da Vida" recounts the real-life and imagined adventures of a popular "country" singing duo. Dos Santos' adaptations of two books by author Graciliano Ramos, "Vidas Secas/Barren Lives" (1963) and "Memorias do Carcere/Memories of Prison" (1984), have been hailed as masterpieces. "Vidas Secas," a landmark of Brazil's "Cinema Novo" movement, is a powerful depiction of a landless family's struggle to survive in the Northeastern backlands in the face of drought and an oppresive socioeconomic system. In "Memorias do Carcere/Memories of Prison," dos Santos traces the effort of Ramos himself to write about prison life while coping with his own unjust incarceration. Dos Santos is highly regarded in Brazilian film circles for his affable personality and spirited defense and promotion of his nation's cinema. He has at times filmed with student crews in an effort to introduce young people to hands-on production; and he has participated actively in different organizations, such as an exhibition cooperative, designed to enhance the status of Brazilian cinema.