Bacurau (2019) Review – Say Goodbye to Political Demons


How would you define Being White? In popular terms, Racism is mostly associated with skin color, but it is much more complicated. Bacurau has an interchange between characters, where a White Supremacist calls out to another white, “You do look white to me, but you are not white.” The line is simple in text, but complicated in subtext. White Supremacy is a common propaganda showered upon the world by First World Countries so that they can colonize and slave the other parts of the World.

Juliano Dornelles and Kleber Mendonça Filho’s film Bacurau underlines the intention of such parasites in our society. It is a tale that examines the lasting harm of colonialism, corrupt politicians and American Imperialism that has caused carnage wherever they have set their foot on. Bacurau covers a lot of such layers under it’s narrative wings that demands to be verbal.

The Story

The film is set in a near-future that encompasses a remote small town of Brazil, Bacurau. It begins with Teresa (Bárbara Colen) entering this arid, tree-lined place whom she calls home. On her way to Bacurau, a milestone board states a line, “Bacurau 17km, If you go, go in Peace,” that really sets the nature of the town beforehand though visually, it’s peaceful.

Teresa returns home to attend her grandmother’s funeral but soon unveils the structural problems happening in the town. The local elections are on their way, and an already elected mayor, Tony Jr. (Thardelly Lima) wants to get elected for the second run. Bacurau has often been neglected by this corrupt politician and doesn’t care for the town, while additionally takes girls from the town to have a pleasant time. The town demands Tony, indirectly to resume the water supply that has been cut for months, if he wants their vote. Tony, on the other hand, argues and brings all sorts of drugs for the town, disguised as food items to poison them slowly. Thus, there is a friction between Tony and the people of Bacurau that underlines the main conflict. But it isn’t that simple.

Next day, Teresa observes bullet holes in the water supply truck. A trail of other problems begins as Bacurau disappears from the maps and GPS, and is visited by two unknown strangers on motorbikes who place a jamming signal in Bacurau that jams all the mobile phone signals. Thus, the town is erased from its existence. Villagers start observing UFOs like gadgets in the sky, and the mass shooting of their people. Like the inhabitants of the town, even the viewers try to decode why all this is happening to such a peaceful town. The answer lies in the end of the film, but it is not straight, but complicated like reality and hatred.

Spoiler Ahead

Multiple Layer Integration

Written and directed by Dornelles and Mendonça Filho, the film brilliantly balances the act of substance with entertainment. It writes off various social issues but doesn’t compromise on it’s gripping value. The grotesque bloodbath, action and comical characters keep even the apolitical audience engrossed.

The film works substantially on it’s bright, colourful and culturally rich characters, never seen on screen before, that brings flavour and entertainment. The theme of the film is very serious and numerous instances/dialogues keep underlining it, from time to time, in case the viewers don’t get carried away.

The main underlying theme of the film is the repercussions of Colonialism on third world countries like Brazil. Bacurau is raided by American Paid Assassins who visit the town with modern weaponry in order to increase their Body Kill Count. As barbaric as it sounds, a White Supremacist will give you enough reasons to justify that. They are proud of being White but you will piss them off if you call them a Nazi. A similar scene happened with the leader of this Assassin Gang, Michael (Udo Kier). Their obsession is not with skin colour though, it’s much deeper in their mentality. A Spanish looking white man is not white for them, mind you.

The film applause a very low-key notion to supremacists exclaiming that they might be savage in their actions but when they will step in real Wilderness, they won’t be able to survive a bit. Let’s not highlight the incidents of Vietnam, and something similar happened in Bacurau too, that is fun to watch.

Other than it’s take on colonialism and imperialism, Bacurau talks about parasites in one’s society that is making the culture and country hollow, their prestigious politicians. Tony Jr. might be a brief character in the film, but the consequences of his actions are visible throughout and can be connected in the climax. His fate, in the end, is totally deserving.

Bacurau excellently contemplates human life and racism without making it monotonous. The narrative portrays Brazil backwardness but doesn’t justify it as a reason for ruthless businesses to bleed it’s people and let them starve. The white invaders look upon these Brazilians as inferiors and initiate a hunting massacre for their own amusement. A metaphor that works on many levels.

It might have taken a bit of inspiration in it’s narrative from the acclaimed Seven Samurai, where the town fought against the foreign invaders. Though there aren’t any professional samurai to fight on their behalf and the people are on their own. The take elevates the drama of the film itself.

Bacurau never wastes a moment to leave a mark on the audience, whether it’s the incorporation of colourful scenes, excellent scene playouts, vibrant character or the integration of folk Brazilian music. Cultural amalgamation supplements the reverberating message of the film, that there is strength and power in numbers, no matter how your government tries to divide you or foreigners try to inflict hatred among one’s community, some real incidents that are happening in Brazilian states. The movie is potent with rage from end-to-end as it protests against the inequality omnipresent in each and every scene.

It assimilates so many points that work on it’s behalf to narrate it’s story beautifully and perfectly and for it’s portrays was awarded Cannes Jury Award in the year 2019. Enough said it is a film that must be watched.

Bacurau is streaming on Mubi.

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Shikhar Agrawal
Shikhar Agrawal
I am an Onstage Dramatist and a Screenwriter. I have been working in the Indian Film Industry for the past 12 years, writing dialogues for various films and television shows.

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