Manda Bala (Send a Bullet) ***
A Documentary Directed by Jason Kohn
85 Minutes(Not Rated-violent images)
I think what makes "Manda Bala" so special is that it takes the documentary genre to a different level than I have ever seen before. It is informative, engrossing to watch, it's very funny in a sick and dark and sad way, and it looks amazing. And it makes sense that it looks amazing because it won a special prize at Sundance for cinematography. And every single shot-be it a landscape, or even a talking heads portion-is given such tender love and care for the image that everything has this unique look. The colors all don't seem to match, it is bright. I felt like I was watching a quirky comedy and not a dramatic documentary.
"Manda Bala" tells us about the village of Sao Paolo, located near Brazil. San Paolo has many things that are the same from us-children playing the street, farms, cosmetic surgery operations, but with a creepy twist. The farms are frog farms where millions of frogs are trained to be killed and eventually eaten. The cosmetic surgery is to repair the ears and other facial body parts that have been taken away by criminals. And the kids playing in the street are reenacting these violent acts and they are laughing while they do it. A normal day in Sao Paolo includes at least one kidnapping. Cars are bulletproof to avoid things like this, and waiting at the light puts you are risk of a kidnapping or a robbery. Jason Kohn follows a group of people in the village. First one of the frog farmers. One is a politician whose profits rely on money made at the frog farm. Another is a plastic surgeon who is operating on Patricia, a young woman who was kidnapped and had her ear chopped right off. Another is a wealthy businessman, and lastly is a person who has killed many many people. And their stories paint a vivid picture of Sao Paolo, and the violence and class struggles that go on there every single minute.
"Manda Bala" is a success because of the way it tells its story. It gives us all of these perspectives and you begin to see that-politician or crook, farmer or murderer-everyone is in the same boat. The people that commit all of these crimes were basically born into this life, and like the film states, do not really know what is right or not. And the very last line of the film, where the murderer/kidnapper they talk to talks about a politician, is "Maybe he could make this country a better place." Just the fact that he is the one saying that made the theatre laugh, and at the same time it makes you think. If he's asking for better lifestyle, than it must be a really bad place to be. This final line basically sums up the whole film and the ideas of the cycles of violence that exist in San Paolo really are apparent with a few simple words.
I noticed another method the director uses. Instead of subtitles when the talking heads would speak, they would have a translator sitting right next to them who would say what they were saying. I thought this really was a better method than subtitling, and it gave us a chance to look at facial reactions from the interviewee as they spoke. The downside is that when the translator speaks they may not have the same emotion as the interviewee, but it was a good choice in the end. "Manda Bala" has some stunning images, especially the ending credit sequence of tadpoles swimming in a lake. Every shot was done with care, and Kohn does not only report what happens in San Paolo, but he has a unique visual style all his own. This deserved it's cinematography prize.
This is a documentary heavy weekend, with "Manda Bala" fighting against "The 11th Hour" and "The King of Kong." I'd write off "The 11th Hour" if you know anything about global warming, but "The King of Kong" was a masterpiece of entertainment. I would recommend that for pure fun, but "Manda Bala" is very deep and interesting to see. It's the real life version of something like "City of God-" which contains similar themes and ideas. Only this is the truth and the truth is much scarier.