Reality on Film in Brazil

I love City of God, Fernando Meirelles' brilliant look at life in the eponymous favela. One thing that it it paid little attention to, however, was the role of the police. Just released in Brazil is a new film titled Tropa de Elite (Elite Squad) and as Alexei Barrionuevo notes, it confronts this issue directly.

The film is directed by Jose Padilha, who also directed Bus 174, arguably the best documentary ever on violence, its origins,its randomness and the role of the police in Rio de Janeiro. It appears to address one of the fundamental societal problems in Brazil: the acquiescence  - implicit and explicit - of the middle and upper class with the way the police treat the underclass in Brazil in general and Rio in particular.

The film traces the true story of Operation Holiness, the 1997 BOPE
effort to exterminate a drug gang working in a favela near the home of

Rio's archbishop. BOPE was tasked with making the area safe for a brief

visit by Pope John Paul II.

During the four-month operation, BOPE killed about 30 people and arrested 30, including the two drug kingpins, said Rodrigo Pimentel, a former BOPE officer who led the operation and co-wrote the book that inspired the movie. At least two bystanders were among the dead.

Back then, BOPE had about 120 members and was considered a haven for honest officers in Rio. The force has grown to more than 400 today, and its
reputation for being incorruptible is fading.

But its reputation for brutality is almost indisputable. In a city fed up with violent crime, the movie's fictional protagonist, Capt. Roberto Nascimento, has been lionized by many here for his ruthless, deadly style in taking on

I'm glad that Barrionuevo made this point:

"Elite Squad" has made almost everyone who has seen it squirm, prompting, for example, a debate about whether hedonistic drug use by Rio's rich and middle class is to blame for the city's war.

Amen to that. Every problem has a cause. Killing and torturing people does not solve these problems. They don't even rise to the level of slapping a band-aid on the problem as the violence will only continue to fester. Kudos to Padilha for pulling the band-aid off.

Cross-posted at Beautiful Horizons.

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