QUICK SNAP: LIVE FROM BERLIN
The photography of Vazante is extraordinary enough to make the late French photographer Pierre Verger and Brazilian Sebastião Salgado impressed 24 times per second. Daniela Thomas’s first solo major is major aesthetic, ethnographic and anthropological achievement. The sharp and crisp black and white images will transport you to colonial Brazil in the year 1821, shortly before the country’s Independence.
The Brazilian director spent 14 years making the movie, and hwer attention to detail is crystal clear. The mountains and the plateaus of the Serro Region in Southeastern Brazil acquire a texture somewhere between craggy and veiny, wrapped up in clouds often dark and threatening. For the first time in my life Brazil reminded me of Iceland. Vazante does indeed have a cold and bleak feel to it, mostly supported by terse action and laconic dialogues. Images communicate far more than words. The costumes and the props are also very convincing, as are the decorative scars and the sweat on the face of the slaves.
The movie tells the story of mine owner Antônio (Adriano Carvalho), who has given up digging up the increasingly scarse gold in favour of cattle ranching. He recently lost his wife and heir at childbirth, and so he marries his late wife’s 12-year-old niece Beatriz (Luana Nastas), who still plays with dolls. He owns a number of slaves, and many are constantly chained up like animals. They are dehumanised, much like the Jews during World War. Antônio’s cruelty is entirely banalised, in the Hannah Arendt sense of the word.
Vazante is a doubly subversive movie, revealing a country where deep-seated race and gender inadequacies reign. The final minute of the 116-minute-long feature is guaranteed to leave you speechless, as the director blends these prejudices in one ultimate and deeply symbolic gesture. This could have only come from a female director fine-tuned with the history of her homeland, plus the roots of modern cordial racism and misogyny.
Some newly-arrived slaves in the ranch speak a language which no one can identify. They have something to say, but no one can understands what it is. It’s as if these people where living inside a soundproof bubble. The director revealed that the actors are refugees from Mali living in Brazil and that they spoke Bamana (a language which wasn’t spoken in colonial Brazil). Very interestingly, not even the director knew what they were saying. This is a very significant and clever artistic twist, a meaningful gesture connecting fiction to reality, past to present, and Brazil to Africa.
The only shortcoming of the film is a convoluted plot that due to the laconic quality of the narrative is sometimes difficult to follow. As a result, you might find yourself a little lost sometimes halfway through the movie, but this will not affect your overall experience. This is a must-see experience for anyone interested in Brazilian history, female and black representation in cinema.
Vazante is showing as part of the Panorama Section of the 67th Berlin Film Festival taking place right now, but such a mature and accomplished movie should be instead in the event’s Official Competition. DMovies is following the action live – just click here for more information.
Get a taste of the film with the excerpt below: