Brazil "Elite Squad" director puts lens on poor

Mon Jul 14, 2008 6:23pm EDT
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By Fernanda Ezabella

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Jose Padilha, whose movie "The Elite Squad" depicted Rio de Janeiro's violent, corrupt cops, turns his camera toward another form of injustice in a new documentary about poverty in Brazil's northeast.

Despite an economic boom that has helped lift millions out of poverty, more than 10 million Brazilians still live in danger of hunger, many of them in remote areas far from the "modern Brazil" of world-class companies and rising wealth.

Padilha, 40, told Reuters in an interview that he wanted to give life to such statistics with an intimate, simple portrait of three families from the northeast state of Ceara and their daily struggle to feed themselves.

In contrast to the jolting brutality and fast-paced action of "Elite Squad," the documentary "Garapa" was shot with hand-held cameras in black and white and will have no music.

"I wanted to make a film as simply as possible, with a minimum of allegories and information apart from the families' stories," Padilha said.

"I think it makes whoever is watching think 'Ah, I'm watching something in black and white, it must be very old.' And then they watch and see that it is today."

The film marks a return to the documentary form for the 40-year-old Rio native, one of Brazil's new generation of filmmakers who has tackled the country's darker side in all three of his movies.

His first documentary "Bus 174" followed the chaotic police response and violent background to a Rio bus hijacking, while the Berlin Film Festival-winning "Elite Squad" -- due for U.S. release in September -- stirred a bitter debate over policing of Rio's drug-plagued slums.   Continued...

<p>Director Jose Padilha addresses a news conference to present his Brazilian film 'Tropa de elite' (The elite squad) running in the competition at the 58th Berlinale International Film Festival in Berlin, February 11, 2008. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch</p>