Black God, White Devil(1964) Director: Glauber Rocha;
Black God, White Devil shows us life in Brazil isn't always easy but one could change their fate. Poverty and dry conditions could be enough to make some give up their aspirations, while others clung to hope - that a miracle would change everything. Manuel is full of hope, even if his wife Rosa isn't, believing that life will get better. In a heated dispute with his boss, Manual ends up killing him, which forces him and his wife to have to flee. Manual looks at this as a sign by God that things will change and isn't discouraged.
Manual ends up joining St. Sebastian, who is a charismatic preacher with a throng that follows him wherever he goes. In a way, one could say St. Sebastian is like a cult leader because he manipulates others and controls his followers. St. Sebastian gives sermons filled with disdain of the rich and offers hope to the poor but he has a militant side in which he doesn't mind using force in killing others. Manual becomes mesmerized by St. Sebastian and turns into his loyal disciple.
The government as well as the Catholic Church are not in favor of St. Sebastian and hire Antonio das Mortes to kill him. When the smoke clears, Manual and Rosa end up joining a revolutionary who acts more like a bandit, which makes both of them feeling they are not on the right path again.
Glauber Rocha directed this renowned Brazilian film in 1964. I like how there are songs periodically that narrate and explain what is going on as it gives the film a nice touch. I got the sense that the songs gave the story a feeling that the events are legends or will be one day.
Entranced Earth(1967) Director: Glauber Rocha;
Entranced Earth is an artistic film by Glauber Rocha that many would consider a masterpiece. There is a level of complication to Entranced Earth that is not found in many other movies. Entranced Earth is not a film in which one can sit back and watch without thought (and appreciating it requires paying attention and a predisposition for the arts).
The artistic elements of Entranced Earth run deep. The main character, Paulo, is a poet and much of the story is told like poetry (if you understand Portuguese). Paulo is friends with two politicians who more often than not have their own interests in mind and not those of the people. The film was made when Brazil was under a dictatorship and the director, Glauber Rocha, crafts his message carefully so as not to offend the government but also criticizing corruption and a government gone bad. Entranced Earth distances itself from modern politics in Brazil by taking place in Eldorado, a country in the Atlantic. It attempts to capture the mixture of conflict, corruption, revolution and the turmoil that results from it.
Mixing politics and poetry is fairly unusual and sets Entranced Earth apart from other cinema. Unquestionably, Entranced Earth is an intellectual movie; it jumps from idea to idea in a way that isn't always easy to follow and may require watching more than once to take it all in. It is possible that Glauber Rocha was ahead of his time with attempting such a feat.
Antonio Das Mortes(1969) Director: Glauber Rocha;
Antonio Das Mortes captures a piece of Brazilian culture and folklore. Director Glauber Rocha does not present this film in an entirely straightforward way. It is chaotic, not entirely sequential, at times symbolic and even surrealistic; but throughout it all, it remains artistic. He weaves culture, in especially music, into the story. The amount of singing and dancing interwoven into the tale is considerably more than his other movies and has so much music that narrates the film it is practically a musical.
Antonio meets all of one's expectations of being a tough gunfighter. He has killed countless outlaws and is excited at the prospect at putting down another cangaceiro (rural bandits or pirate lords of the desert). When a wealthy landowner puts out the call for help, he gladly goes to see for himself if there is an outlaw troubling the town. The town has more troubles than just the outlaw - the infidelity of the landowner's wife begets futher dificulties and curruption.
Although Antonio sees himself as upholding the law and order of the government, the poor people in the hills who side with the cangaceiro see him as the evil dragon who Saint George would slay. Antiono comes to regret his actions as the law of one side is the oppressor of another. Subtuly, Rocha makes such political commentary in a way that is not too obvious.
Because Antonio Das Mortes has an atypical presentation, appreciating it takes an eye for sophistication. In other words, this is not one for the masses. Glauber Rocha may have been ahead of his time as his films are still so uniquely different.
Rio Breaks(2009) Director: Justin Mitchell;
Although I know absolutely nothing about surfing, I can tell you that Justin Mitchell's documentary Rio Breaks gives us a different look on the sport. Taking place on the beaches of Rio de Janeiro, we get a peek at what it is like living in Brazil. Rio Breaks shows us what it is like from the perspective of young people, mostly focusing on two young boys (Fabio and Naama) that get interested in surfing.
As this film shows us, there are those that come from the hills and those that come from the concrete, but on the beach they are pretty much all equal. The hills are poorer and drug trafficking is the temptation that young people there must resist. Easy money and a young death isn't completely appealing, so some do see other options. Fabio and Naama see surfing as a way to a better life for themselves and their families.
Although getting into the sport isn't easy, there is a surfing club that mentors the kids. The club provides them with free lessons and even lets them use their boards. The mentors know it isn't easy for these kids and wants to help them out as much as they can. With Fabio being just thirteen and Naama being just twelve, they make mistakes and still have a long way to go in their maturity, causing a lot of their own problems too. As you will see for yourself, that while they are friends, they also fight a lot and could do more to help each other out.
While a few parts are narrated in English, all of those interviewed speak Portuguese (with English subtitles), so I would consider this a Brazilian movie. We are taken into another culture and life for a short while with Rio Breaks. Albeit not everything is pleasant, the message of hope is quite inspiring.