Bacurau, from a northeastern Brazilian perspective

Following up this week‘s episode (Ep. 293 - Catch a Wheat! with Felipe Pepe) i’ll give my two cents about Bacurau, some details that are harder to get if you're not brazilian.

**This posts contains major spoilers about the movie** so if you plan to watch it, be warned or read it after doing so!

I'll tag @"exodus"#3 and @"yeso"#385 because they manifested interest in this.

Do not take everything i say here as the absolute truth, since we're always prone to our own backgrounds, opinions and interpretation.

I’ll start by saying this movie really hit home for me. I was born in Sao Paulo, southeast Brazil but my parents are from Maranhao, northeast Brazil, not the same state but the same region where the movie takes place. The culture and mores are the same, down to the accent. I was raised by two incredible _nordestinos_ (northeastern brazilians) with their fighting spirit and the “never lower your head” attitude.

The funeral scene is pretty much authentic for smaller cities in northeast. My Grandparents where send off this way. The ceremony held at their house, with a crowd transporting the coffin to the grave afterwards, with music playing in some manner.

When my mother died here in Sao Paulo, the ritual was different. We didn’t hold the ceremony at home but we did the music thing when transporting her coffin. We chose the song [“Vermelho” by Chico da Silva/Julinho Teixeira and sung by Fafá de Belém]( The song is about [one of the two oxes](, one representing the tradition (blue), and other the oppressed (red) which the song talks about. In politics, this song is an anthem of the Left.

We did the same when my father passed away, we played [“Canção da América (Unencounter)” by Milton Nascimento]( . It’s a song about friendship, specially remembering when friends go away.

The city of Bacurau can be seen as an allegory to Canudos, an alternative society that was massacrated in the [War of Canudos](, Euclides da Cunha wrote [“Os Sertões”]( as a way to describe the facts that took place in this conflict. His writing was something like forensics/detective work to determine what happened.
If i remember correctly, he would send his writing by mail, narrating each conflict almost in real time (by that era's standards) and later it was compiled and edited into the book.

Some say Canudos was a proto-communist society. It saddens me that historical bias erased a lot of things we could’ve known about it. Sure, we learn about it in school but i’d say it’s superficial.

The mayor scene showing up and dumping old books is nuanced because at some point we learn he’s a grandson of a (presumably) former mayor.
This is a nod to [Coronelism](, a way of political control by forcing the voters to elect the “colonel” (not an actual military colonel). If they didn’t, they’d die. Often the “colonels” would stay decades in power, being replaced by their own through time.This kinda exists to this day, in a lesser degree.

As a response to the oppression, the [Cangaço]( was born.

Canudos, Coronelism and Cangaço all happened kinda simultaneously. Coronelism was way too strong, and the Cangaço was a way to fight back.

It is often described as an “social banditry” phenomenon where the Cangaceiros (the cangaço warriors/folks) would straight up kill, threaten or sabotage the colonels. They were almost nomads, fighting to protect the peasants. Most of northeastern brazillians see them as heroes despite historical bias tending to portrait them as villains.

Their leather hat is the icon for them. The hat can be seen wore by the guy that wants to open the church and also in the museum.

The most famous cangaceiro was Virgulino Ferreira da Silva [“Lampião”]( (“Oil lantern” - he got this name because he could fire a lever-action rifle so quickly that it looked like he was holding a lamp).
He became a cangaceiro when his parents died because of colonels dispute over territory. He swore to avenge them and try to free people from the colonel’s oppression.

He’s a hero in my family’s point of view. In 1938 he and his crew were ambushed, killed and beheaded. Their heads were displayed on the sidewalk of the city as a message to others.

A picture of decapitated heads can be seen at the museum scene, i think it is a nod to this.

Lunga is clearly the head of the cangaceiros. Being queer, it can also be a nod to the fact that a retired judge wrote a book about Lampião’s life, which contains a small segment insinuating that he was homossexual. The book was banned for a few years when Lampião’s granddaughter sued the author.

Bacurau can be percieved as a city of Cangaceiros or a city that hides/protects cangaceiros, also seen in the museum scene where there’s a newspaper cut-out, lots of guns and artifacts. The way the whole city is kinda trained to deal with invasions corroborates this.

The movie also touches on a few other themes such as xenophobia from brazilian south-southeast brazil towards north-northeasterns. Historically, south-southeast has a European immigrant background (mostly from Italy and Germany), which is a more recent immigration (ending of XIX and beginning of XX century) than the north-northeastern one (that can be traced as far back as XV-XVI century)

Thus, the motorbikers are represented this way. I swear to you that i’ve met people like that.
South-southeasterns also tend to have prejudice against northeasterns because northeast has the majority of left wing voters in the country. Brazilian politics is not so two-party system as the US.

The use of psychotropics can be related to the native indigenous population. Specifically in Pernambuco (the state where Bacurau is) i was able to find the Xucuru de Cimbres, a native population reserve that uses some psychotropics. When the “doctor” warns people about the medicines that the mayor delivered, it is also a nod to this. Some people prefer to use local medicine, based of plants and stuff. The seed guy even cultivates a lot of them!

There's also a Roda de Capoeira (circle of capoeira) when the night falls and people are getting ready to fight. Capoeira is a mix of cultural dance, sport and martial art developed in PERNAMBUCO's Quilombo dos Palmares (a Quilombo is a place where enslaved people would escape to). Usually people practice it with songs going on to give the rythm and they enact a fight, but moving reaaaally slow so anyone can do it, despite of physical condition, age etc.
You may recognize Capoeira since it is Tekken's Eddy Gordo fighting style.

Quilombo dos Palmares specifically was the biggest quilombo ever, it was so huge that the government tried to end it for more than 100 years and always lost the fight. Zumbi dos Palmares was it's leader and founder. Dandara dos Palmares, Zumbi's wife, is a feminist icon.

The guitar guy is a repentista, a singer of [“Repente”](
Repente is a musical art style based on improvised poetry music. It is very satirical, you can view it as a diss rap battle of sorts. Usually there’s two repentistas singing at each other, who can burn the other the most, wins.
It is a great northeastern art form, i lol’d so much when he was singing to the bikers. The bikers didn’t even understood that they where being mocked and i’m 100% positive that this would happen to all southeasterns in real life lmao

The theme song for the movie, [Requiem para Matraga]( by Geraldo Vandré goes like this:

Vim aqui só pra dizer
(i’m here just to say)
Ninguém há de me calar
(nobody shall shut me up)
Se alguém tem que morrer
(If someone has to die)
Que seja pra melhorar
(so be it to get things better)
Tanta vida pra viver
(So much life to live)
Tanta vida a se acabar
(so much life to end)
Com tanto pra se fazer
(with so much to do)
Com tanto pra se salvar
(with so much to save)
Você que não me entendeu
(whom don’t understand me)
Não perde por esperar
(just wait for it) ((in the sense of “you don’t see it coming”))

Geraldo Vandré was an important musician from the era of military dictatorship in Brazil.
Since there was a heavy censor going on, artists had to sneak protest into their lyrics.
Geraldo Vandré did not hide anything, his lyrics were straight on the face of the military dictators. There are reports of him being tortured in Brazil and Chile, he ended up being exiled in Europe and appearing in Brazil wearing brazilian military air force uniform years after.

Being questioned, he stated: “Geraldo Vandré died in 1968 (presumably after the torture).
I’m now Geraldo Pedrosa de Araújo Dias. “
After that he refrained from playing, making music and appearing in public. He is still alive somewhere in Sao Paulo, making rare public appearances and much rarer music playing.

His songs are seen as an anthem for the oppressed people.

There are a lot of details i’ve noticed in the movie but most of them were just aesthetic. I hope i did a good job with this post!

@“marxseny”#p121815 Fantastic post! I watched Bacurau quite a while ago and loved it. It‘s very interesting to see the movie made some of these connections and references you’ve explained. I myself am an indigenous person in Ontario, and know about how that sort of thing tends to go, but, I know that in Brazil it's very different and quite complex and has a lot of things that I would not know anything about. I maybe understood at least a bit of the vibe of what you were offering a deeper explanation of, at least.

Thanks for sharing, and I will also mention, I love it when people from other communities and cultures carve out a little space for themselves on here. We have had a few threads where native speakers and/or people wanting to learn or practice a language other than English connect with each other in that language, like this one for [French]( which pops up semi-regularly, also this [Spanish ]( didn't take off, but, you never know, it could!!

You or any other of the handful of Brazilians who have been around for a while or have joined recently don't _need_ to create one for posting in Brazilian Portuguese, but, if you wanted to, it doesn't bother us anglophones at all!

@“marxseny”#p121815 truly excellent post! I didn‘t know about the connection between Lunga and an historical cangaceiro. I noted that Diadorim in Grande Sertão: Veredas is also a queer character but I’m not sure how much overlap there is culturally or historically between cangaceiros and jagunços, or what the distinction is exactly, but I do recall that Guimarães Rosa had da Cunha in mind when he was putting the novel together. The English version of Grande Sertão is sort of notoriously truncated (but still kicks ass even so), and the book of course is incredibly difficult to translate so we English speakers don‘t know much about the topic. But it’s a topic I've found very interesting since I read the English version maybe 15 or so years ago. Having a some family connection to the region is incredibly cool.

Is there some context to Pacote's character? That, along with the psychedelics people were taking - thanks for the info on that - has eluded me

also: it was noted in English language analysis that NE Brazil saved the rest of the county's ass during the most recent presidential election

@“yeso”#p121822 Jagunços are more of mercenaries for hire that the colonels had.

Some Jagunços were more moderate in that serving the colonels aspect though. My mom had a few cousins that were Pistoleiros (a kind of problem-solver-assassins-for-hire Jagunços that would kill problem makers, thieves etc).

I think Pacote was a pistoleiro or something in that vein.

About politics, it saddens me that part of my mother's family that lives in NE voted in the fascist candidate. My mom fought against coronelism, her sibblings, parents and her all suffered from the power of local colonels. They starved, didn't have water and were child laboured. How could they not learn from that? I do not regret severing ties with some of them. That being said, i'm hella proud of my NE folks for saving the elections lol

Also: the books are ALSO TRUNCATED in portuguese. It is very difficult to understand and abstract at times. I need a easier to read version

@“marxseny”#p121815 I've been chewing on the movie since I saw it a few weeks ago and this just give me more to dig into. Glad it is hitting so hard with so many members of the IC forums. Thank you for adding this context.

I forgot to add the segment about Capoeira so i just edited it in.

Man, I watched this a few years ago and everything went over my head completely - thank you for elucidating it so clearly! Although class struggle is universal, this is the kind of historical context/flavor you need for it to be elevated even higher. As an American we‘re not even taught about our own slave uprisings in school (e.g. saying they had no hand in their own liberation, that it was “gifted” to them through the Civil War), so to learn about Brazil’s (which seemed even more massive) it was like, they should 10000% be teaching every kid in the Americas about this history of fighting against colonialism/slavery - the biggest understatement of the day to make.

I also forgot to mention: Dandara dos Palmares was the influence for the Dandara metroidvania game.

Minor update:

Just found out that Kleber Mendonça Filho is a huge John Carpenter fan.

The tweet translates as:
"It's hard to explain but this single shot of "HALLOWEEN" (1978) was fundamental in my foundation in Cinema (for better or for worse). It's better than 1000 disgusting cgi shots. The movie is 45 years old today. From John Carpenter"

A friend tipped me that the school in Bacurau is named after the portuguese translation of John Carpenter

I came across this comment from him as well


In December 1981 I was 13, and I went to see with my mom Raiders of the Lost Ark, an unforgettable cinemagoing experience. But that film did not make me want to make films, because it felt so spectacular: ‘This is impossible. I live in Recife, Brazil. I’m 13, and this is not gonna happen.’ But two years later, I took home on VHS three films by John Carpenter: Escape from New York, Assault on Precinct 13, and Halloween. When I saw Assault on Precinct 13, I said, I think I can make a film—because it’s very simple, very strong, very good, very American in the classic sense. So this was inspiring. And I’ve been in that mode since 1983.

@marxseny have you been able to see Kleber's new documentary? Wondering if he discusses Carpenter there. My understanding is the film is about moviegoing in Recife

@“yeso”#p138190 “Retratos Fantasmas” isn‘t it? (sorry i don’t know the english title for it lol)

Haven't watched it yet. It'll be on streamings on the near future. A couple of friends that run a movie podcast watched and liked it. Another friend saw and recommended that i watch Neighboring Sounds (2012) too!

KM is touring/promoting the movie right now, hopefully i can watch on the big screen if he comes to Sao Paulo. The Brazillian academy chose it to send as the oscar candidate as far as i know. If i fail to watch at the cinema i'll just watch it at home

yeah the early English reviews have been positive. I worry that it will be a wait until it gets wide distribution in the USA since Bacurau also took its time, such that I watched with Spanish subs rather than wait for it to come out in English.

_Neighboring Sounds_ is excellent I think. Pretty sure there are some sociological details that were lost on me as well (same as _Bacurau_) due their specificity. That's a good thing though, I'd rather actually learn about another part of the world than have it be simplified.

Guessing you've seen _Aquarius_? Another personal favorite for me.

@“yeso”#p138192 i have not!

Funny thing: my father did not engage with movies whatsoever. In my whole life he only went to see a musician‘s biography on the cinema and that was it. But he read a lot of newspaper and said to me "Go see Aquarium. I read it’s great" and i found so out of character for him to recommend a movie lol.

I have a brazillian friend that is a japanese descendent but he does not engage with japanese media in any way, so i did him a 10 movie list from japanese cinema. He did me a 10 movie list from Brazillian cinema, we're watching each other's movie lists and giving our impressions. Aquarius is on his!

The lists are:

  • - Perfect Blue (1997) - _Satoshi Kon_
  • - Tampopo (1985) - _Jūzō Itami_
  • - Late Spring (1949) - _Yasujirō Ozu_
  • - The Rickshaw Man (1958) - _Hiroshi Inagaki_
  • - Departures (2008) - _Yōjirō Takita_
  • - 5 Centimeter per Second (2007) - _Makoto Shinkai_
  • - Yojimbo (1961) - _Akira Kurosawa_
  • - Audition (1999) - _Takashi Miike_
  • - Tokyo Story (1953) - _Yasujirō Ozu_
  • - Eureka (2000) - _Shinji Aoyama_
  • _His_

  • - Edificio Master (2002) - Eduardo Coutinho
  • - Jogo de Cena (2007) - _Eduardo Coutinho_
  • - Twenty Years Later (1984) - _Eduardo Coutinho_
  • - Aquarius (2016) - _Kleber Mendonça Filho_
  • - Mars One (2022) - _Gabriel Martins_
  • - Barren Lives (1963) - _Nelson Pereira dos Santos_
  • - O Beijo no Asfalto (2018) - _Murilo Benício_
  • - Reaching for the Moon (2013) - _Bruno Barreto_
  • - Narradores de Javé (2004) - _Eliane Caffé_
  • - Basic Sanitation, the Movie (2007) - _Jorge Furtado_
    (supplemental recommendations if i had already seen any on the list)
  • - Estomago (2007) - _Marcos Jorge_
  • - Ó Pai, Ó: Look at This (2007) - _Monique Gardenberg_
  • - The Territory (2022) - _Alex Pritz_
  • I plan on watching soon. Maybe next month!
    Since i've done this breakdown with Bacurau, i could try again with Aquarius. I think it will be harder, but it will be a good exercise.

    going to borrow your friend‘s list. The only one I’ve seen other than Aquarius is Vidas Secas. Your list of japanese films is a hot time too

    @“yeso”#p138222 Eduardo Coutinho‘s are all documentaries. Liked them all, i had seen other movies of him. Sadly he was killed a few years ago by his own son during a psycothic episode. Easily one of the best documentary directors from Brazil. There’s also a few more movies on his list but they are so classic that i‘ve seen them all. Will be posting later. I’ll move further discussions to the movie talk topic.

    I think I‘m going to borrow your friend’s list also. At least, whatever I can find from it.

    Might be a bit of an informal November film club