A Brazilian Brand of Justice?


| 2/11/2008 3:16:35 PM


You may not have heard of the most popular, and perhaps most violent, Brazilian film of all time. Tropa de Elite, which came out last year in Brazil and is now in limited release in the United States, follows Captain Nascimento of BOPE, an elite military police battalion, as he prepares Rio de Janeiro for an upcoming visit from the pope. This involves the gruesome torture and murder of countless Rio residents, suspected drug dealers, and crooked cops. The film has been widely criticized for its depiction of brutality against civilians and its seeming advocacy of vigilante violence.

In an article for In These Times, Homes Wilson examines the film and the political undertones of its stunning popularity. The problem with Tropa, Wilson believes, is that the consequences of its gratuitous violence are ambiguous. Whether it is interpreted as destructively immoral, as director José Padilha intended, or as a necessary evil in Brazil’s war on drugs completely depends on the viewer’s point of reference. “If the filmmakers had purposely set out to weave Rio violence into a fascist propaganda piece,” Wilson writes, “it’s impossible to imagine them doing a better job.”

Recalling a police barbecue he attended after watching Tropa, Wilson describes the cops’ excitement about the film by comparing it to geeks’ love of Star Wars, leaving us to wonder what a Tropa de Elite convention might look like. If Brazilian police view the film’s vigilante violence against civilians, some of them children, as glorious rather than cautionary, then Brazil may be moving in a frightening direction indeed.

Morgan Winters



Pay Now Save $5!

Utne Summer 2016Want to gain a fresh perspective? Read stories that matter? Feel optimistic about the future? It's all here! Utne Reader offers provocative writing from diverse perspectives, insightful analysis of art and media, down-to-earth news and in-depth coverage of eye-opening issues that affect your life.

Save Even More Money By Paying NOW!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. You save an additional $5 and get 4 issues of Utne Reader for only $40.00 (USA only).

Or Bill Me Later and pay just $45 for 4 issues of Utne Reader!




Facebook Instagram Twitter