TIFF review: Bacurau

Brazilian director Kleber Mendonça Filho's latest is a sharp reaction to geopolitical inequality


BACURAU CWC D: Kleber Mendonça Filho, Juliano Dornelles. Brazil. 132 min. Sep 7, 9:45 pm, Scotiabank 13 Sep 9, 1 pm, TIFF 4 Sep 13, 8 pm, Scotiabank 13. Rating: NNN


Brazil’s Mendonça Filho follows up his beautiful and scathing 2016 film Aquarius with a political western that mixes bonkers horror conventions with intense formalism.

Co-directed with Aquarius production designer Dornelles, it opens with a satellite view of Brazil that zooms in on the country’s sparsely populated northern region – home to the fictional Bacurau. We meet Teresa (Barbara Colen) as she passes an overturned coffin truck while en route to the desert town in a surreal, deadpan and bloody sequence that sets the tone for what’s to come.

Not unlike Maya Da-Rin’s Wavelengths film The Fever and Colombian crime drama Birds Of Passage, Bacurau is a sharp reaction to geopolitical inequality with a focus on class and colonialism.

The directors take time giving us a sense of place, pace and social mores through rich and evocative wide landscape shots and close-ups of the diverse ensemble cast, which includes Sônia Braga. Gradually, an insidious plot – drawn clearly along the lines of social hierarchy and led by a villain played by (who else?) Udo Kier – takes over.

The parts prove greater than the sum in Bacurau, which ultimately delivers big cheer-worthy moments but doesn’t always pull off its balance of high-brow/low-brow successfully or satisfyingly.

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