Creating a "cultural war machine" in Brazil's performing arts is renowned theater director Roberto Alvim's mission as he seeks to eradicate progressive ideas from the stage.

Recently handpicked by President Jair Bolsonaro to head the performing arts center at the National Arts Foundation, Alvim's appointment is the latest salvo against artists since Bolsonaro took power in January.

One of Alvim's first acts has been a call to arms on social media to likeminded professionals in the sector to stop the spread of "cultural Marxism."

"I did not invent the cultural war. It has been brutally waged by the left for at least 30 years," Alvim, 46, told AFP.

"Any artist that is not aligned with the left is boycotted, defamed and prevented from working -- like what happened to me."

Now, Alvim wants to "balance the game."

His weapons will be "fostering and giving material means for the creation of works of art" that are not based on progressive ideas.

It will also involve "stimulating the creation of companies with a classical repertoire, as well as the writing of contemporary works based on the technical complexity and depth of those of Shakespeare" and others.

Likening his mission to that of the Crusades, Alvim says he is fighting "for our Judeo-Christian civilization, against its destruction by the progressive forces."

- Left-right tensions -

The appointment of theater director Roberto Alvim as head of the performing arts center at the National Arts Foundation is the latest salvo against artists since President Jair Bolsonaro took power / © AFP

The ultraconservative wave that swept Bolsonaro to power in the 2018 elections has alarmed artists, who are concerned about potential funding cuts and restrictions on their freedom of expression.

Kleber Mendonca, director of the satirical western "Bacurau" which premiered at Cannes in May, has compared life in the Bolsonaro era to "dystopia."

"The film was screened at a time when there's this whole idea of destroying culture in Brazil, and the arts in general," Mendonca told reporters at the time.

Soon after taking power in January, Bolsonaro scrapped the culture ministry, which was absorbed into the new citizenship ministry.

The former army captain said Thursday that public money should not be used to produce films such as "Bruna Surfistinha" -- called "Confessions of a Brazilian Call Girl" in English -- which was released in 2011 and tells the story of a prostitute.

Eduardo Wolf, a philosopher and arts editor in Sao Paulo, said the left is partly responsible for triggering the "cultural war."

"The ideological radicalization of the left has fueled tensions" and provoked "a reaction of a regressive right, adept at conspiracy theories and authoritarian responses," Wolf said.

Veteran film-maker Luiz Carlos Barreto said "the idea of cultural Marxism is nonsense."

"Art is manifested by the free flow of ideas," Barreto said.

"No government can treat artistic expression with preconceived ideas, ideologies."

- Survival -

Nayse Lopez, artistic coordinator of the Panorama festival of dance and body arts, is worried about the challenges of securing future funding, both public and private, in a country still struggling to recover from a devastating 2015-2016 economic crisis.

For her, the impact of public policies can only be measured "in six months or a year, when we will see how much the government has devoted to funding cultural projects."

But she is confident Brazilian artists will survive, even if they have "to develop new strategies to exist in such a divided society."

"I can not believe that Brazil can live without art."