Films – both feature & non fiction documentaries are a great way to fast track one’s understanding of a country or society. Before I came to Brazil, it was difficult to find information on which movies/ documentaries to watch. That is primarily because, Brazilians only speak Portuguese and none of their movies are dubbed. Most aren’t even available with English subtitles.
While Cidade De Deus is probably in your hard disk already, there are others that merit your viewing attention.
After living in Brazil for three months, here is my list of movies that anyone visiting Brazil or interested in this country must watch.
These are linked to either history, society or inequality. In my opinion they provide great insight into this wonderful yet complex country.
For your ease, I have found links with English sub-titles or at least have tried to set the context so you understand them better. Enjoy!
Brazil: An Inconvenient History:
This documentary is recommended as a first watch on Brazil. This unique country has people of multiple descendants. From European to African, Indigenous American and Mestizos(people of mixed race). This BBC documentary traces the country’s 500 year history and answers some questions which should leave you a bit more informed. At least about the how the Brazilian society came to be.
Tropa Di Elite:
Batalhã de Operações e Policiais Especiais or BOPE(pronounced as baw-pee) are the elite forces of the Brazilian police force. They are known as one of the deadliest elite forces in the world. Though they are at war, and fight like it – the enemy is not external. They fight the drug traffickers who control favelas. Despite the controversy of being trigger happy, they also enjoy support across a cross section of society.
Tropa Di Elite, is a fictional movie narrating the journey of BOPE officer looking for his substitute while his wife is about to give birth to their child. But he must also complete the really important mission of cleaning up a favela(of traffickers) for the Pope’s impending visit in Rio De Janeiro. Watch the fast paced movie to see how the story unfolds.
Click on the youtube link below the image.
Dancing With The Devil:
According to my knowledge this documentary was originally aired on Channel Four. Like many documentaries, this one too is based in Rio De Janeiro. It looks at crime and trafficking through the lens of the story of a Pastor.
It claims that Pastor Gione(Johnnie) has worked towards reducing violent crimes by traffickers. This fast paced, hard hitting documentary is everything you need to know about the state of crime in Brazilian cities. Like they say that fact can be stranger than fiction, you must actually watch the documentary to believe that this story is for real.
Ultima Parada, which means last stop in Portuguese is the dramatised feature film based on a real life incident. This incident is popular in Brazil as ‘Onibus 174’ (Bus no 174). In this dramatic incident, the elite forces tried to negotiate with a young man believed to be hijacking a bus with hostages. After hours of the incident being streamed live into homes across Brazil, the young man was caught alive. But in a bizzare end to the story, the cops strangled him to death in the vehicle that was supposed to take him to the authorities.
Watch this movie, to understand how dramatic real life incidents in Brazil can be. But also, to look at a boy’s journey as he lives a life a crime on streets of Rio.
I could not find a link with English subtitles. But thankfully, there is a documentary on the incident and it pretty much explains the story. I watched the documentary before and the movie was pretty self explanatory after that.
Here is the link to the documentary: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4mQ2b-PE7Iw
Ó Pai Ó:
Most movies on Brazil are based on Rio De Janeiro. Understandably so, it is a megalopolis and the most exciting city in the country.
But many(though, not all) travelers are unaware of Salvador, the north eastern coastal city that is the capital of Bahia. Though I love Rio, it is Salvador that has my vote as the favourite city in Brazil. Its rhythm of life, music and sensuality are unparalleled. It is only understandable that I must end this list with a movie which is based in Salvador.
Ó Pai Ó (literally meaning ‘Oh father’) is a story around the time of the carnival following lives of some characters. Though it has both happy and sad endings, its a fabulous insight into this city full of rhythm and romance.
Sorry could not find a link with English sub-titles, but I enjoyed watching this nevertheless. May be you will too. I am sure the opening sequence itself will have you hooked(wink!).
With these movies, it might seem that Brazil is just about crime, poverty and drugs. It is not. Like every free artistic society, movies made in Brazil and on the country tend to focus on the extremes. There are other movies and documentaries from the country, but without a context for non-Brazilians and English sub-titles they largely cater only to Brazilians.
Hope you enjoy this list.
Do share with us any Brazilian movie(preferably with English sub titles) that you recommend viewing. In fact, go ahead and share any movie on South & Central America that you loved watching. We are waiting.
*Tropa De Elite image credit to http://bhrpodcast.com.br/
** Original feature image credit to Andre Gustavo Stumpf