We live in a cocoon. All around us
are worlds with people living lives of which we have little concept,
often of quiet desperation. This brilliant documentary by
first-timer Jason Kohn presents what life is like in Sao Paolo,
Brazil, a city teeming with 20 million inhabitants, the vast
majority of whom live in slums.
Kohn tells the story of the
everyday horror of normal people living in this hellhole through
several people, all of whom, with the exception of the corrupt
politician, tell their experiences in their own words. Interlaced
are the tales of Mr. M, a businessman who talks of all the steps he
has taken to protect himself from being kidnapped on the street,
including driving a bullet-proof car and considering the insertion
of a chip that could be used to locate him at all times.
Then there’s a lovely young woman
who actually was kidnapped, who had her ears cut off, one at a time,
and sent to her family with a ransom demand. She tells of her 16-day
horror with a smile on her face, but the brutality will be with her
for the rest of her life.
There’s a heroic plastic surgeon
who replaces the ears of victims who have been abused as the young
woman was. We see almost the entire surgery, interspersed throughout
the film, including the incision in the chest to get the cartilage,
the cutting of the cartilage, and the insertion of the cartilage as
the new ear. This is not a film for the squeamish, but the surgery
is fascinating and shown without exploitation.
Kohn has extensive interviews with
a masked, sociopathic kidnapper who shows no emotion for the
mutilations he performs on his victims, all the while rationalizing
what he does by saying that he gives much of what he gets to the
poor in the slums.
Finally there is the tale of the
corrupt politician, one of Brazil’s most powerful. We see those
trying to bring him to justice and learn his fate.
This is a mesmerizing, tense,
exciting documentary that makes one appreciate life in America. It
is only playing in a very few theaters and for a short period of
time, but it is a film that should not be missed.