O SISTEMA É FODA

Tropa 2

“O sistema é foda. Ainda vai morrer muita gente inocente” (“The system is shit. Many innocent people are still gonna die”). Those words make a good plot summary for this Tropa de Elite’s sequel, with the same actors but with a considerable change in the ideology underlying the film. Roberto Nascimento is now a lieutenant colonel in charge of the BOPE special forces in Rio de Janeiro, but his intervention to liberate hostages in the violent jail “Bagum Um” forces his leaving the Batalhão de Operacões Policiais Especiais to be transferred to an administrative position as vice secretary for Public Security. There, in spite of his successes “cleaning” the favelas from criminals, he discovers a deeper involvement of crime with politics, media and Rio’s Military Police.

There is not much fight –in terms of minutes- in the favelas or in the jail (this last one constitutes an intertextual tribute to 2003’s Carandiru, 2009’s Celda 211 and so many other movies based on prison riots), because this time the fighting is against the own system. With that change, the movie seems to soften the hard-line, zero-tolerance and aggressive policy towards criminality that the original one defended in 2007, as a Brazilian 24, in which any kind of torture was justified to get important information. Now, his initially most fiery opponent, Fraga, a human rights activist and professor who is now living with his wife and educating his son against him, turns into his collaborator. The idea of those left-wing “marihuana users” who only talk about abusive and killing police-officers from their safe universities and their wealthy condominiums’ lives vanishes the same way his hope for a world free of violence and corruption does.

Aesthetically and in terms of structure, this film is quite similar to the other one, with a beginning in media res at a moment of climax, frenetic movements of camera and a continuous voice in off, Nascimento’s, narrating the incidents and explaining his own version of them –including the differences between reality and what he was expecting to happen, both translated into images-.

I wonder what thematic turn of the screw the scriptwriters will use in the next Tropa de Elite delivery.

SHORT CUTS IN UGANDA

imani

In the imaginary of the West, Africa is nothing more than safaris in the plains, jungles, civil wars and starving children with inflated bellies. iMANi shows how wrong is that idea. Three alternating but independent stories present different aspects of a country, Uganda, which could, in broad terms, be considered as a metonym for Africa. Each of the stories, fragmented in a classical introduction-conflict-climax-denouement structure, happens on the same day and represents, respectively, the rural, suburban and urban faces of life in Uganda.

Olweny is a 13 year-old boy from the far north, who must go back home to his family after spending some time rehabilitating at a shelter house for children of the war, an euphemism for soldier children, kidnapped and enrolled by force to join the rebels in one of the many wars devastating homes and families.
Mary, who lives in a suburban village 37 kilometers from Kampala, works as a servant for a rich couple in a luxurious detached house in the capital leaving her children under the care of her sisters. She also has to deal with one of her sister’s abusive husband, who is ruining his wife’s life.
Armstrong, raised in one of Kampala’s ghettos and now a popular break-dander who has travelled the world and climbed up the social ladder, decides to give a show at his old poor neighborhood, but he is afraid of having to confront the present ghetto chief, his old buddy Simon.

The three tales problematize issues like psychological trauma after the war, blame and forgiveness; rich-poor’s and man-woman’s different rights and dualities; domestic violence; free will versus life-stagnating determinants; solidarity and understanding; selfishness and loneliness.
In spite of the movie’s fictional and dramatic structure, the tranquil rhythm of the filming, the sceneries and the everyday-life images suggest a documentary in which there is not even one “white” character but where a Creole language describes England’s long influence in his former colony and serves as an ID for belonging to a social class depending on how much English is used.

Secondary characters like Ruth, Simon “the King”, the gardener, Lasty, etc., are crucial for the development of the plot and, although the stories present them in occasions in Manichean terms –nothing is what it looks like, though-, they fill the somehow achieved (1) aspiration of the director to give a general and objective view of her country.
The three stories remain without concluding or closing completely, as a reminder that life and society is a constant and organic system that must be nurtured and taken cared of day by day.

(1) Sarín, my companion at the watching of this film, professional photographer and compulsive traveler in Africa, confirms the movie’s authenticity and its coincidences with African real life.

Amour

a

“C’est beau la vie, si long temps, la longe vie”, Anne says when looking at the photo album of her childhood and youth. By that moment, her illness is already a gradual inescapable reality; she has lost mobility in the right side of her body and tried, with not much decision, to kill herself. But Georges, the other hero in this film, the one who caresses and takes care of her, even fighting himself against his own debilitating age, scolds her and asks her what she would do in case she were in his situation. The painful drama of illness and deterioration in old age is aggravated when we are aware of the intellectual level of the couple, she a former piano teacher, maybe a soloist herself, he a well-educated and lettered intelligent man. Georges, with his nightmares and his visions in the form of flashbacks though the listening of the music, plus the obvious deterioration of the old woman, show in the film the passing of time, with which the old couple has lost total contact. He feels secure in his routines with her and her ups and downs, until he has to confront reality and decides to act in consequence.

Haneke’s mastery at expressing feelings with long sequence-scenes, conversations and noises out of the range of the camera, and above all, silences –as in his previous and applauded Caché-, creates an emotional universe which belongs to the couple, locked in the old but luxurious apartment in Paris and only disrupted by the sporadic visits of the daughter –gorgeous as always Isabelle Huppert as the distant and emotionally weak daughter-, other friends of the family and the inevitable nurses, one of them rude and abusive.

This movie is a reflection about aging, illness and about how difficult is to accept one’s or the beloved ones’ physical decline. It is also a complaint about the role of the elderly in a society which neglects them, and a proposal to launch a debate about euthanasia as a way of a dignified death.

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