MANDA BALA (SEND A BULLET) (Jason Kohn). 85 minutes. Screens Wednesday (November 7) at the Bloor. Rating: NN
Manda Bala (Send A Bullet) has the precise cinematography of an advertisement and the catchy score of a feature film, but these polished techniques collide with Jason Kohn's sombre subject matter rather than inform it. The film attempts to link a frog farmer to political money laundering, but fails to make its case.
There's a potentially effective exposé here - Jáder Barbalho, the corrupt politician associated with the farm, has diverted billions from Brazil's most needy - and yet the film doesn't attempt to bring him down.
A young businessman calling himself M reveals that he has a fake wallet and a bulletproof car to ward off the plethora of kidnappers in São Paulo. He wears sunglasses throughout to indicate it's too dangerous for him to identify himself.
Patricia is a kidnap survivor who was abducted at 21, held for 16 days and had both ears cut off. She recalls this horror without emotion and has inexplicably forgiven her torturers. The film never explores why. Her parents, who received her ears and took over two weeks to free her, are not questioned.
Kohn depends on sensational stories, which he introduces as headlines without any deeper investigation. The first-time filmmaker gets it wrong - gorgeous techniques borrowed from fiction can work if they accompany doc content, but they can't substitute for content.