Violent Brazil cop drama named best film in Berlin

Sat Feb 16, 2008 5:01pm EST
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By Mike Collett-White and Kerstin Gehmlich

BERLIN (Reuters) - Ultra-violent Brazilian film "The Elite Squad" ("Tropa De Elite") won the top prize at the Berlin Film Festival on Saturday in what is likely to be a controversial decision by the jury.

The movie, already a hit in Brazil, portrays corruption, violence and murder within a crack squad of Rio policemen battling armed drug dealers in the city slums.

The ceremony brings to a close 11 days of screenings, red carpet premieres, parties and deal making at Europe's first major film festival of the year.

The drama, awarded the coveted Golden Bear for best film, divided the critics, and at home a group of officers sought to have it blocked for denigrating the police force.

Some reviews praised it as a powerful portrayal of the moral compromises police accept in order to survive and do their job, but others said it glorified their often brutal methods. One called it a "recruitment film for fascist thugs."

At the festival director Jose Padilha said he approached the cycle of violence neither from the political left nor right, and added that legalizing drugs was the only way to break it.

In the film, police and drug warlords commit torture and executions, including burning a teenager alive in a ring of tires, while the rich are lambasted for financing narcotics crime and even NGOs working in the slums are criticized.

"Many journalists didn't seem to have understood the film. I was very concerned about that," Padilha told a news conference after winning the award.   Continued...

<p>Actors are pictured in a scene from "Tropa de Elite" (The Elite Squad), by Brazilian director Jose Padilha, in this undated handout photo. "The Elite Squad" won the Berlin Film Festival's Golden Bear for best film on Saturday. REUTERS/Belemcom/Handout. EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS.</p>