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  Once There Was Brasilia The Ruined World
Year: 2017
Director: Adirley Queiros
Stars: Wellington Abreu, Marquim do Tropa, Andreia Vieira, Franklin Ferreira
Genre: Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: The Brazilian capital of Brasilia is in darkness aside from the street lighting, and into this world of night there are people who prefer to patrol, be they the police or the civilians. A man in a wheelchair and wearing body armour propels himself through this until he meets a woman who has stopped on a covered bridge for a smoke: she offers him one as well, which he accepts with gratitude. Conversation turns to the political situation in the country: they each have their horror stories about the way folks of their race have been treated by the authorities, and at this point in time the President is about to be deposed, mired in scandal. But somewhere out in space, an astronaut named WE4 (Wellington Abreu) is heading their way on a mission...

Proof, if nothing else, that given the right locations and props you can make a science fiction flick out of practically anything, and on any budget no matter how low, Brazilian director Adirley Queiros followed up his similarly ramshackle sci-fi effort White Out, Black In with this politically engaged little item that made a virtue of its cheapness. So much so that he had a habit of lingering in extended takes on his cast simply standing about amidst a landscape that looked like something out of a post-apocalypse movie, yet was supposed to be representing the Brazil of 2016 which thanks to some form of time warp had been mixed up with the future. The astronaut, against his will as far as we can tell, has been ordered to go back in time to assassinate the President of 1959.

The trouble with that being that even in that far-off period, things just don't work properly whether compared to 2016 or not, and his time machine is surely one of the most battered contraptions ever seen in the name of the genre, basically the shell of a van decked out with vaguely fantastical technology to render it a shade more convincing. There was something of Terry Gilliam's Twelve Monkeys about the plot, applied to a racially charged theme of how the black population of Brazil were being treated badly, though what they did about it was somewhat more oblique - putting on a show which involved stylised combat that resembles, well, a lot of forward rolls and brawling, frankly - that was more baffling than enlightening. When the characters did communicate, in between listening to broadcasts of speeches, it was in significant but stilted phrases.

What the director did have in his favour was an eye for the stark, dramatic image. There was even a hint of romanticism in its portrayal of rebels mobilising against a vastly corrupt system as befitting many a science fiction yarn that had a yen to indulge in war games, but mostly it was a vaguely hypnotic experience as those rebels took the time to set fire to a car, for instance, and spend minutes watching it burn. Nobody has a TV, so maybe that's what passes for entertainment now, but there are not so many individuals to be glimpsed on the streets, probably because it's dark, yet also because it is dangerous and that danger may come from more than one source. A rare film to take place entirely at night, its hues of pitch black and sodium yellow, with a bit of electrical blue for good measure, meant it was never visually tedious for its atmosphere was all there in its imagery, and what atmosphere it was. You could watch this and not pick up on the politics at all, or only be mildly aware of them, but its homemade look carried a sheen of idiosyncratic gloss that was in its favour; you can envisage some finding it boring, but it had a strange intelligence others would definitely respond to.

Aka: Era uma Vez Brasilia

[Click here to watch on MUBI.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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