Police violence at the Rio Film Festival: the documentary “À queima roupa” (Point Blank)

From the UPP police facebook group page: "Congratulations to all those who think of themselves as having been born like this. I think of myself this way"

From the UPP police Facebook page, in 2012: “Congratulations to everyone who feels they were born like this. I know I do.”

Para Violência policial no Festival do Rio: o documentário À queima roupa, clique aqui

Watch the trailer here. The movie, partially crowdfunded by way of the Catarse site, will be in Rio cinemas as of October 16.

Our memories are short, with so much daily news on crime and police in Rio de Janeiro.

Last week, in the wake of an investigation that brought about the arrest of 24 police officers on September 15, one arrestee claimed, in a deposition meant to reduce his expected prison sentence, that the military police command demanded monthly payments of US$ 6,000 equivalent from each battalion, collected in bribes. In other words, if the accusation is proven true,  police corruption  and paramilitary activity, despite efforts to combat them, are still quite widespread in the corps.

So the courageous documentary À queima roupa (Point Blank) directed by Theresa Jessouroun, does the public an enormous favor in recalling, with documented details and dramatic reenactments, police violence in the metropolitan area since 1993, the year of the Vigário Geral massacre. Interviewing relatives and survivors, officials and the informant Ivan Custódio Lima, about several episodes of police violence, Jessouroun singles out the factors that lead to suffering and injustice, perpetrated by those who should be protecting citizens and preventing crime:

  • the low value of life attributed to favela residents
  • criminal activity carried out by police, who extort criminals and resell their aprehended weapons and drugs
  • poor training and lack of adequate psychological care for police
  • impunity

The film has extreme scenes, of blood and death — and of the tragic surprise felt by the son of judge Patrícia Acioli, shot in her driveway by police in 2011 because she had ordered their arrests.

Photo by Taylor Barnes

Photo: Taylor Barnes

Two of the most striking scenes in the film are the single tear running down the face of a barber who survived a shot to the head and now has cerebral palsy, barely able to communicate verbally; and the statement by informant Ivan, that the police responsible for the Vigário Geral massacre, himself included, should have spent more time in prison. “Do you think six years is worth a life?” he asks.

The film ends close to the present day, with scenes of residents and UPP police in the Jacarezinho favela, in April 2013, when a young bystander was shot dead. At the conclusion of the documentary, one feels that nothing has changed since 1993: bullets still fly, destroying the lives of favela residents (for this blogger, the feeling was reinforced just after watching the movie, with the news that yet another complicated death of a young favela resident has just taken place, this time in the Complexo do Alemão).

But what is most moving in the film’s final scenes is the courage and conviction of the residents in the face of the young man’s death in Jacarezinho, allegedly shot as he ate a hot dog. Together, they vehemently protest his death, yelling the word “Justice!” in unison. And this serves to remind viewers who have kept up with events in recent years in Rio de Janeiro that, while corruption and police violence endure, some things have indeed changed since 1993. As the informant Ivan notes in the film, back then the courts saw little proof of the Vigário Geral massacre, since most residents were afraid to testify against police.

You may also want to take a look at these Portuguese-language links:






About Rio real

American journalist, writer, editor who's lived in Rio de Janeiro for 20 years.
This entry was posted in Brazil, Transformation of Rio de Janeiro / Transformação do Rio de Janeiro and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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