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Sunday, 19 June 2016

Sydney Film Festival (15) - Barrie Pattison on IN THE SHADOW OF THE HILL (Australia, 2016, 98 minutes)

Impressive documentary. Following FIFA’s World Cup and anticipating the Olympics
“one stupid white man with a camera”, as Australian Dan Jackson characterises himself,  is drawn into the affairs of  Rocinho the Rio hillside favela in the process of a “pacification”. 

A local man last seen being taken away by the police becomes the subject of agitation run by his family, despite threats and parliamentary offers of protective custody. The world wide “Where is Amarildo?” campaign finally unites the slum dwellers, the media and the broader population in a massive demonstration in front of the parliament. “All Brazil has come together.” A police Captain and twelve of his associates go to jail. 

While this is happening, an artist stages his Via Sacre/Way of the Cross street theater piece despite being told that all available funding is going into the Sports Events, and a dispossessed healer with cancer makes herself over into Miss Passionfruit, a recognised public entertainment personality, dragging herself out of poverty.

Interviews also include Amarildo de Souza’s family and civil rights lawyer Jao Tancredo who are seen facing off the police. Jackson manages to include an actual fire fight, a shot of a dog walking over a “Where Is Amarildo” poster, one distant view of Christ the Redeemer on his hill and a night time view of  advancing black beret BOPE troops, the only police force which carries no handcuffs.

This is a handsome piece of documentary filming and effective special pleading. Put it together with José Padilha’s alternate view Tropa de Elite movies, which are briefly excerpted, and you still only get an incomplete account of the favelas but it’s enough to leave you profoundly disturbed.

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