Brazilian cinema - Tropa de EliteThe most talked about Brazilian film since Fernando Meirelles’ Oscar nominated masterpiece City of Gods. The director of Tropa de Elite, Jose Padilha, has already scoped the top prize at the Berlin International Film Festival with this extremely violent and moving work based on semi-fictional accounts of Rio de Janeiro’s strategic para-military police force back in 1997, just before the visit of the Pope to Brazil. The film is an in depth exploration of want it takes to become a member of BOPE, or Rio’s Special Police Operation Battalion. It is also an exposé of systemic corruption within Rio’s police forces.
Few people will remember the Brazilian police authorities flying into Britain back in 2005, to humiliate the Metropolitan police about the folly of ‘shoot-to-kill’ policies following the tragic accidental shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes. Even then, I thought ‘hello, who are the Brazilian Police to lecture the MET about the fallacy of shooting first and asking questions later’? If anything, Tropa de Elite is cinematic proof that the police forces in Rio are real experts in lethal violence - and arbitrary torture.
Tropa de Elite graphically depicts what many of us in the West had already thought about the Brazilian authorities attitude towards policing in the slums of Rio – they train, arm to the teeth, and unleash death squads into Rio’s poor and lawless favelas. The central character, Capitan Nascimento (Wagner Moura) who narrates throughout the film coldly explains how BOPE, the ‘men in black enter the favela to kill – never to die’. Capitan Nascimento is Rio’s Beowulf, he is the good-looking archetypal heroic militarist, however, he’s also a hideous monster, and he knows it – that is one reason why he must leave this elite police squad. Moura’s delivers an impressive performance as the tough but flawed Capitan, which is truly first-rate. Tropa de Elite is no ordinary cops and robbers’ film - it is to all intents and purposes a civil war film. It’s a must see movie especially for the fans of City of Gods, or anyone who has any real serious interest in all things Brazilian.