(versão em português aqui)
Yesterday while thinking about the Paraisópolis massacre (nine black teenagers died in funk event after police action here in São Paulo) I posted on my social media a YouTube link for Police Killing, a documentary by Natasha Neri and Lula Carvalho about the judicial court responsible for the murders committed by the Rio de Janeiro military police and mentioned that it was the most relevant Brazilian movie released here in the last two years and a friend asked if I had written something about it and it seems fair to write a few words here because it deserves to be seen more.
Police Killing is not a movie given to a big fuzz: we have the court, the lawsuits, the political circus around them, the cell phones and security cameras images of the acts, the victims’ relatives (almost always black mothers). The film show all of under a direct cinema approach. The filmmakers are sure that those images alone are enough. We know a lot about Rio’s police death toll (1546 deaths in the first 10 months of 2019 only). The court we follow is not the one who trial the cases, but the merits of the complaints. Only 2% go to trial, a much smaller number ends in a guilt verdict.
The movie is a triumph of process cinema. Its political success lies in its form and what it says about the processes it follows. The language of justice is a language of violence, the movie reminds us. Reducing lives to legalese terms is a dehumanizing political gesture. The presence of a creep like Flavio Bolsonaro using the court as a political podium is bad in itself, but the simplest gestures of the court, the choice of words to describe victims and violent acts are brutal in themselves as well. People become numbers and court data, the government kills them twice (or rather multiple times as the crime repeats at every moment of the long process). Neri and Carvalho know that the coldness of direct cinema only adds to the horror of what they recorded. There is no need for great rhetorical gestures to explain the terrifying scenario of Police Killing, just the meeting of the judicial process with the cinema process. The images of the mothers speak for themselves, they do not need any extra touches.
What Police Killing achieves over its 104 minutes is to soberly record what state-sponsored murder means. By filming how the judiciary system deals with it, it expands our view of black genocide as a state policy. Like Paraisópolis and the speed with which the governor tried to ensure the innocence of the cops involved remind us, it is a policy that goes beyond the state of Rio de Janeiro.
One last remark Lula Carvalho was the cinrmatographer of both Elite Squads (by far the best thing in those movies I shall add), here’s a fair mea culpa.