Two new movies lift lid on Brazil's dark side

Wed Oct 7, 2009 1:23pm EDT
 
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By Stuart Grudgings

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Two very different movies are showing an ugly, violent side of Brazil that many would rather forget as the country prepares to host both the World Cup and the Olympics within the next seven years.

"Salve Geral," Brazil's Oscar entry for best foreign language film, is the first major movie depicting the violence that paralyzed Sao Paulo in May 2006 when a prison gang launched coordinated attacks on South America's largest city.

The orgy of violence unleashed by the First Command of the Capital (PCC) gang left 493 people dead. Forty-three were police but 450 were civilians, many of them shot by police in a brutal response roundly condemned by human rights groups.

The timing of "Salve Geral," whose title refers to the code used by the PCC to start the attacks, has added to its impact. The alleged leader of the PCC went on trial last week accused of ordering the assassination of a judge in 2003.

Some have criticized the film as overly sympathetic to the prisoners, who formed the PCC in the early 1990s to pressure authorities to improve the dismal conditions in Sao Paulo state's overcrowded prisons.

The movie, by Brazilian director Sergio Rezende, tells the story through the fictional experience of a middle-class mother who is drawn into the murky world of the PCC and corrupt prison officials after her son is jailed for murder.

At one point, it depicts state officials desperately negotiating with PCC leaders to stop the rampage -- something they have denied doing. In another scene, police shoot dead two youths merely for being on the street during the violence.

Luiz Eduardo Soares, a respected former national secretary of public security, said many Brazilians still don't understand that the violence originated with the brutal treatment of prisoners, and that little has changed since the attacks.   Continued...

 
<p>An undated handout photo shows the poster of the film "Salve Geral". "Salve Geral," Brazil's Oscar entry for best foreign language film, is the first major movie depicting the violence that paralyzed the financial capital Sao Paulo in May 2006 when a prison gang launched coordinated attacks on the city. The film is one of two very different movies showing an ugly, violent side of Brazil that many would rather forget as the country prepares to host both the World Cup and the Olympics within the next seven years. REUTERS/Handout</p>