Thursday, November 15, 2007

Tropa de Elite

Go read my guest post over at The Global Buzz. It's about the cultural phenomenon of the year here in Brazil, the movie Tropa de Elite. It comes out in the US on January 25, and it's a great movie. It deals with the battle between police and drug gangs in favelas in Rio.
The movie raises multiple questions. Are the tactics depicted in the film acceptable? Where is the line between justice and excessive violence? In the favela I live in, Rocinha, the biggest in Brazil, police don’t enter except on raids. Bandidos roam the streets with free abandon, wielding an array of rifles, submachine guns, uzzis, and pistols. Some have gold plating or brazenly state the name of the gang.
Tropa de Eilte, of course isn’t the first great Brazilian film documenting the reality of favelas in Rio de Janeiro. The co-author of Tropa de Elite also wrote Cidade de Deus (City of God), which became an international hit in 2003 for the story of the fight between Lil Ze and Knockout Ned. What not everyone realized is how close to reality that film was. Cidade de Deus exists, and is not too far west of Rocinha. I went there yesterday to meet a friend.

The fight between Lil Ze and Knockout Ned actually happened. The actors almost exlusively came from favelas and had no acting experience. Instead, most scenes were improvised. To this day, you can go to a Baile Funk (funk party) at the place where Benny weas killed. At the end of the movie, when the Runts take over, you’re seeing the beginnings of the Comando Vermelho, the gang that controls that favela to this day.

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