Portrait of Brazilian revolutionary is a salvo in fight over history

Portrait of Brazilian revolutionary is a salvo in fight over history

BERLIN (Reuters) – The makers of “Marighella”, a film about a left-wing revolutionary murdered by Brazil’s 1960s military dictatorship, hope their film will help counter a version of the country’s history that they see far-right President Jair Bolsonaro as propagating.

Director and screenwriter Wagner Moura and actors Bella Camero, Seu Jorge and Bruno Gagliasso arrive for the screening of the movie “Marighella” at the 69th Berlinale International Film Festival in Berlin, Germany, February 15, 2019. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke

The drama was shot before last year’s presidential election, but director Wagner Moura said the film was nonetheless an artistic response to the environment in which Bolsonaro won office to become Brazil’s first right-wing leader since the end of the dictatorship.

The film depicts an underground group led by Carlos Marighella (Seu Jorge) whose aim is to stoke resistance by making the public aware of acts of torture and murder perpetrated by a government that uses its control of the media to keep its crimes secret.

Moura said the film, which premieres at the Berlin Film Festival on Friday, had a comparable mission – to overturn a narrative that portrayed the dictatorship’s defenders as heroes and wrote the resistance out of history.

“(Bolsonaro) has praised torturers, he has praised the dictatorship… People are starting to talk about how the coup d’etat of 1964 was actually the ‘movement’ of 1964,” Moura told reporters.

Brazil was ruled by a military junta for 21 years from 1964. A 2014 report by the country’s National Truth Commission found that hundreds were killed or went missing during the dictatorship, and thousands were detained.

A former Army captain and seven-term congressman, Bolsonaro has openly expressed admiration for the dictatorship. He was swept to power by voters’ outrage with traditional political parties and took office in January.

“Marighella” shows the resistance group using inventive means to draw attention to the crimes of the dictatorship, including by hijacking radio transmitters to broadcast a speech by Marighella denouncing it.

Meanwhile, policeman Lucio (Bruno Gagliasso) is under growing pressure to suppress the group, and uses a mixture of violence and cunning to move against it, identifying the revolutionaries’ weak spot: their attachment to their families and those they love.

The film’s cast and crew stood on the red carpet ahead of the premiere wearing badges and chanting a call for the release of left-wing former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who is serving a 12-year prison sentence for a graft conviction.

“Marighella” producer Andrea Barata Ribeiro said it was still uncertain when or whether the film would go on general release in Brazil, though financial obstacles might be as significant as any political resistance to it.

“If necessary we’re going to do an independent launch of the film through crowdfunding.”

Reporting by Thomas Escritt; Editing by Frances Kerry

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