BACURAU: FILM REVIEW
In an interview with Pitchfork, Hannibal Burress said he saw a tweet that said “music reviewers should have to say what they were doing when they were listening to the album.” That way, the reader has insight into the writer’s state of mind when they were writing the review. Hannibal, I’ll take your advice.
I watched Kleber Mendonça Filho and Juliano Dornelles’ Bacurau with a slight hangover in bed on a rainy Friday morning. On one hand, this enhanced my viewing experience, as I was delighted by the weird world of Bacurau that I found myself sucked into. When you're hungover, you'd rather be in a different place (any place) than the night before. On the other, I was not a particularly huge fan of seeing someone’s head cut off first thing in the morning.
Bacurau is set in the near-future in Bacurau, a fictional small town in Brazil. The film starts with the town mourning the death of their matriarch, Carmelita. Following her death, strange things begin to happen. A flying UFO hovers in the sky, the town disappears from online maps, and random inhabitants are shot dead. Turns out, this massacre is caused by wealthy American visitors who want to hunt the villagers for sport. Their leader, Michael, is played by the acclaimed Udo Kier. The villagers must put up a fight for their lives, absent of help from any real politicians, as the mayor of the town is corrupt.
Bacurau presents a stark commentary on colonialism and corruption. Michael and his team want to raid this town for no reason other than for their own profit and greed. Even when they enlist fellow Brazilians to help them raid the town of Bacurau, it becomes clear that the white foreigners don’t see the Brazilians as one and the same. When the light-skinned Brazilians make a case for allyship, the westerners say, “How could they be like us? We’re white. You’re not white.” They laugh.
Elements of corruption are revealed as it is obvious the town’s mayor is despised by his people. He strolls in, unannounced, speaking to an empty village that refuses to show itself. Uncoincidentally, the mayor is also light-skinned. Bacurau’s people have someone delivering water to the town in a giant tank, because their mayor refuses to work out a dispute with the government involving a dam. The mayor comes with food, medicine, and books as a peace treaty, except his supplies are either poisonous for one’s health or expired. The town has to look after itself and would actually be better off without its corrupt politicians.
While the first half of the film acts as a tribute to the town, the second half is where most of the action happens. Filho and Dornelles’ setup allows the viewer to connect with Bacurau and its people, from its funeral rituals to its highly-regarded museum of the town’s history. The community is bonded by trust and tradition, and occasionally psychotropic drugs. It is these things that allow the people of Bacurau to stand up to those who want to oppress them, despite being less technologically advanced and prepared. Bacurau is unlike any film I’ve seen. It simultaneously feels like it was shot before our time while being oddly futuristic. Like many old villages, the town of Bacurau has a story to tell, a history to preserve, and a battle against colonizers to fight.