In wake of quarantine, theaters have been forced to shut down for the near future, and studios have been required to rethink distribution of new releases. Although many of the films have found homes on Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, and Hulu, smaller independent movies don’t have the luxury of such a broad release. Instead, independent filmmakers and theaters have teamed up with distribution companies to offer streaming options for many of these new releases in virtual cinemas. Kino Lorber has created Kino Marquee and Film Movement has set up a virtual cinema where a great selection of new international and independent films are available for streaming, with the option to support local theaters around the US.
This week I had the chance to watch a film which has been on my list for a while, available on Kino Marquee, called Bacurau. Bacurau, a Brazilian movie directed by Kleber Mendonça Filho and Juliano Dornelles, is an intense, and often surreal story about a small town in Brazil confronting invaders from the outside. The film begins with a series of grim omens, coffins on a highway by an upturned truck, a mysterious gangster wanted by the state, and a water shortage engineered by the local government. The more serious events, however, fade to the background as we get to know the quaint town of Bacurau, and the people who live there. Coming together for the funeral of a matriarch in the town, the viewer is immediately given a sense of community in the town. Its people work together to survive, without the help of the regional mayor, an insincere big city politician who tries to bribe the townsfolk with a “donation” of books dumped on the ground from the back of a truck.
To further emphasize the unity in the town, the story jumps from person to person rather than focussing on one main protagonist. Nevertheless, three people receive marginally more focus than the others, Teresa (Bárbara Colen) is one of the people born in the village who has returned for her grandmother’s funeral. The film begins by following Teresa, but her point of view slowly fades into a more general point of view around the town. Soon after her arrival, the town disappears off of the internet, vanishing from maps as if it never existed. This is the beginning of even more sinister events, as a family of farmers who live nearby are found murdered. All the while, a strange UFO shaped drone watches from above.
Eventually the townsfolk realize that they are being hunted by outsiders, a group of bloodthirsty mercenaries from America. From this point on, the film takes a turn away from a portrait of a quiet town towards a violent revenge flick, as Acácio (Thomas Aquino), a retired hitman, must prepare the town to defend itself. The story has clear parallels with the historical colonialism in South America and modern economic imperialism, and it captures a powerful image of resistance. The community, beset by hypocritical outsiders, must look to its past to survive. The film feels authentic and passionate, but at times falls prey to over exaggeration. The over the top Americans are so ridiculous at times that it becomes difficult to remember that they are stand ins for real forces in Brazil.
Overall, Bacurau is an exciting thriller which combines art with the genre film. The resulting movie will be entertaining for those who love Spaghetti westerns, Tarantino’s blood soaked action movies, or international cinema.