Updated: Oct 7, 2019
Bacurau (Kléber Mendonça Filho, Juliano Dornelles, 2019)
On his third feature film, Kléber Mendonça Filho chose to focus on Brazilian people on a low income, differently from his previous movies -- Neighbouring Sounds (2012) and Aquarius (2016) -- that portray the middle class. Through the eyes of the Jury in Cannes, he and his co-director Juliano Dornelles made the right decision, for Bacurau won the Cannes Jury Prize.
Bacurau is not an easy film to watch, and for those who haven't been reading the political news about Brazil lately, the feature can be seen as a dystopian western. But for those who are more curious, there are many layers at sight. Just as many as all the dust that covers the bodies of the buried people. Bacurau opens with a funeral and ends with another one.
The plot is quite simple: Bacurau is a small village in the Northeast of Brazil that has been isolated. Some foreigners, Americans led by the sniper German (Udo Kier), and other Brazilians from the South of the country, block the access to water, food, and medicine. They erase the town from the Google maps. Then, they start killing everyone one by one, apparently for no reason but the pleasure of killing.
But the story of Bacurau is not that simple. It's rich in symbolism as it is an allegory of Brazil now, as well as Brazil of all times. The narrative establishes a dialogue with every single soul that has devoted their lives to fully comprehend Brazilian contradictions and enrooted problems. Here's a list of philosophers, anthropologists, musicians, filmmakers, painters and writers to whom Kléber Mendonça Filho and Juliano Dornelles talk. Eric Hobsbawn in Viva La Revolución; Darcy Ribeiro in O Povo Brasileiro; Gilberto Freyre in Casa-Grande & Senzala; Luiz Gonzaga in "Asa Branca"; Lima Barreto in O Cangaceiro; Glauber Rocha in Terra em Transe; Candido Portinari in Os Retirantes; Graciliano Ramos in Vidas Secas, to mention a few. They are basically telling the same story. Brazil, as a country, is destined to fail.
To plainly show the insane heat and the constant droughts of the region, the photograph created a cinematic look with overexposed scenes. And if you don't get it at first, it's explicit in the dialogue between the water truck driver and Teresa (Barbara Colen).
The movie takes over Brazilian culture in a way that it distinguishes from the "Made in Brazil" label. It shows elements you probably relate to the country, such as capoeira, music, mysticism and sensuality, but in Bacurau those elements are related to resistance. It's the culture that is now at stake, so naturally, the inhabitants of Bacurau will fight for it.
Bacurau gives voice to the minorities that historically have been left behind: the black matriarch who's passed away and is respected by the whole village; the homosexual who's the leader of the rebels; the marginals; the poor children; the lesbian doctor/scientist. In other words, the Brazilian people. It's their time to fight for justice.
Bacurau relies on Lunga (Silvero Perera), a funny trans warrier, who hides in an abandoned hydroelectrica. The fact in fiction relates to so many cases of corruption in the country, in which big investments were interrupted and the colour of money was never seen again. Corruption is a Brazilian endemic issue. It grows and it is everywhere just like weed, and it is very difficult to stop it.
By the way, the film represents faithfully the architecture and the geography of the Sertão and caatinga. It looks like the Mojave desert. It seems pretty desert but as soon as some rain drops fall, flowers open and animals get out of their caves.
At the same time that the film gives us hope; it takes it away. The museum in Bacurau reflects truth: history repeats itself. The current times are stained with blood and repression, fight and resistance. A new dictatorship has risen. (One of Bacurau's character is its mayor, who no one respects, but they cannot get rid of him.)
Bacurau is an important and very beautiful film. It shows Brazilian people suffering and dying. It depicts the most hidden truth of people from Northeast, that Euclides da Cunha once described in his book Os Sertões: "O nordestino é sobretudo um forte". (Brazilians from Northeast are above all strong.)
Bacurau is out now in London Film Festival and soon will have its nationwide release.