In a tragic evening in 1986, the police of the Brazilian Federal District invaded a black music ballroom in the suburbs of Ceilândia and viciously beat up revelers. An officer shouted out the orders: “white out, black in”, in reference to the colour of the skin of those who should face the police violence and those who should be spared. DJ Marquim da Tropa and party-goer Shokito belonged to the former group, and the sequels of that night are still with them. The two black man saw their lives changed forever, one being now wheelchair-bound and another one wearing a prosthetic leg.
White Out, Black In is a ‘docu-drama’ with the real DJ Marquim and Shokito in the main roles. A third fictional character Dimas Cravalanças (Dilmar Durães, who is also black) time travels back from the future in search of evidence of the Brazilian government’s brutal and savage ways.
Violence in Brazil is deeply institutionalised, and the police routinely kills drug traffickers, the homeless and even innocent civilians. The colour of the skin is a prominent criteria in their victim choices, and most of these crimes are unaccounted for. Prosecution of police is Brazil is still very rare. The 2003 film Carandiru (Hector Babenco) is a very realistic dramatisation of the massacre of 102 prisoners by the police in a Brazilian prison in 1992. None of the officers involved ever faced jail time.
Unlike Babenco’s film, White Out, Black In does not portray the actual police massacre. Instead, it shows some photographs of an apparently merry and peaceful party, before the police invaded. The film takes a very realistic approach in capturing Markim and Shokito’s lives in the derelict houses of modern-day Ceilândia. These dilapidated buildings are powerful and fascinating in their poverty and their monotony. Markim is undaunted by his handicap, his economic and social woes, and so he passionately continues to deliver his DJ set over radio from his own house.
The camerawork is mostly static or very slow-moving, just like the rusty parafernalia in Markim and Shokito’s studio (such as piles of broken radios, old computers, an elevator for Markim’s chair and many prosthetic limbs sitting around). Just like most of the country they live in, these people have been rushed into the digital age without regard to more essential needs, such as basic infrastructure.
White Out, Black In was presented in February 2016 at the BFI South Bank as part of the African Odysseys strand. Keep an eye open for further screenings this year in the UK and Europe. Unlike the characters in the movie, DMovies believes that both the film and the young filmmaker have likely a bright future ahead.