Bacurau – Once Upon a Time in Brazil

Winner of the Jury’s Prize, Kleber Mendonca Filho and Juliano Dornelles’ movie focuses on the torments of their native Nordeste, under the disguise of a manchase. Chilling.

By Perrine Quennesson

Reading Time 4 min.



The most beautiful part of Bacurau is the feeling of being lost. Kleber Mendonça Filho and Juliano Dornelles — who was the artistic director of the former’s first movies — dedicated an hour out of the 2h20 run of the movie to get the viewer and the characters to lose their landmarks.

It all starts with a title explaining that we are in a close future. A tanker carrying a young lady — played by the timid Barbara Cohen —on her way to her grand mother’s funeral drives to the fictional town of Bacurau. In front of them, another trucks lays coffins around. A death omen ? It is at least the start of a series of strange events that will intensify during the movie.

Bacurau takes us on a walk before entering what is going to become a crossing of Rio Bravo, The Most Dangerous Game and John Carpenter’s Assault, openly quoted in the movie. A walk in to the scenery of the Nordeste,  a poor and dry part of Brazil. Far from the heavenly beaches, deep inside a  steep setting, lives this village supplied by ravens and isolated from the rest of the world. Lost and soon erased from all maps. Surreal images accumulate : flooded coffins, flying saucer-drones… A feeling of bewilderment serves the statement of this outrageously political feature film…As if to say the what is happening here is universal

n the second act, when the government threatens to cut rations —more precisely, water— to the villagers, to make them leave, they are ready for insurrection. And they are relentless when it comes to fight back an external threat that came to exterminate them. In the end, Kleber Mendonça Filho and Juliano Dornelles must be sorry for their « In a near future » contextualization, as their movie drips with contemporary references. This unhealthy and rotten-to-the-bone government, here to destroy its own territory and to befriend stranger forces — that get more and more sophisticated—is furiously reminiscent of Jair Bolsonaro and the situation today in Brazil. When the inhabitants are forced to take up arms, they get them from a museum. Just like the cinematic references from old movies, older times and older battles. Looking at the movies coming up this next few weeks — from Les Miserable to Joker and including Ken Loach’s Sorry we Missed You — it seems that a revolution is coming.

  • Cannes
  • Bacurau
  • Bresil

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