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Once Upon A Time In Brazil…


By Roger Costa


One of the most fearless Brazilian revolutionaries, Marighella became notorious during his arduous, bloody fight against the Military regime in the 60’s, being the authorities number 1 enemy and also an extreme force towards civilians. Internationally renowned actor and Golden Globe nominee Wagner Moura’s controversial directorial debut remains unreleased in Brazil, due to its central character’s direct conflict with the regime, which is the influential motivation of the country’s current leader.

The film stirs up conventional standards of political perspectives, presenting the facts without judgement, though obviously favorable to Marighella’s point of view. Through individual focus on his relationship with his estranged son and wife, the members of his reactionary group, and his attempts to prove to society he’s not a criminal, and he’s in fact fighting for the people’s rights, director Moura conceived an explosive, intimate and extremely violent account of political battles, echoing our current times.

As a director, he proves to be a promising storyteller, developing an intense character study with masterful skills on how to deliver the material. This attribute is evident right on the opening scene, a heist taking place at a train in fast movement. Marighella and his associates take everyone as hostages, including dozens of military soldiers carrying loads of guns. They take everything and run away, starting an empire of brutal and destructive attacks towards the Militia.

Following their belief, determination and political revolt, in a sense of defending democracy, civil and humanitarian rights, they recruit new personnel for their movement. One of their first attacks occur at the US Embassy in Brazil, and the narrative constantly declares the CIA as their opponent’s most vital allied. In response, the authorities arrest some of them, and provide long sessions of torture (so clearly and explicitly captured by Moura’s lenses, sometimes excessive) in a lethal investigation to reach out Marighella’s whereabouts.

Seu Jorge plays the leading man, building up his character with nuance and power/manipulation control, but presenting undefined reactions and uncertain chemistry alongside his most emotional scenes, including those when violence is not present. At the thrilling moments of cat-and-mouse play, Seu Jorge delivers fine results as a merciless patriot.

But that adjective is more associated to Bruno Gagliasso in the role of Lucio, the fascist, politically incorrect officer responsible for the torture program and breaking the rules to find his enemy. He deservedly won the prestigious Best Supporting Actor Award in the International Competition of the 2020 CinEuphoria Awards.

Also delivering fiercely performances are Ana Paula Bouzas and Bella Camero as the female leaders in the group fighting the regime.

An acclaimed selection at Berlin, Moura scores an outstanding and accurate biopic, pointing to the dangers of a masked imperialism, which confirms him as a daring newcomer.

(MARIGHELLA premiered at Berlin International Film Festival and had its US Premiere at the African Diaspora International Film Festival in NYC. ArtMattan Films will release the film soon. Go to for details.)

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