Manda Bala (Send A Bullet) (2007)

15 Jun

São Paulo, Brazil. A city in which an estimated 17 to 20 million people are living and a place where a lot of poor Brazilians move to in the hope to start a better life. It’s a city with a lot of skyscrapers, but a lot of favelas as well. The difference between rich and poor is very big, which has resulted in an extremely high number of kidnappings. Not a day goes by without at least one happening and the ransom is usually very high. To prove that the family needs to pay the kidnappers use violence and it’s “normal” to cut off an ear of the victim and mail it to the family.

This documentary focusses on this problem and both victims and kidnappers are interviewed. This situation has resulted in a big market for armored cars but also for plastic surgeons who have specialised in reconstructing ears. It’s not the only subject the documentary touches. It also looks at the corruption within government. A governor and senator called Jáder Barbalho, set up a frog farm to launder millions of dollars.

The movie manages to tell these stories in a very interesting way and uses a lot of beautiful shots. It slowly builds the bigger picture which keeps your attention.

The thing which does grate in this documentary is the way in which the interviews were shot. You see the person getting interviewed together with a translator. Instead of using subtitles you first hear the person being interviewed, followed by the translator. This was probably done because a lot of Americans who are not big fans of subtitles. It becomes annoying very quickly. It is lost time which could have been put to better use. It is a film which is worth watching, although it never investigates anything deeper. It manages to give a good idea about some of the problems in everyday Brazilian life.

Score: 7

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