Acclaimed international filmmaker Hector Babenco dramatically captures the powerful intensity of this true story of hope and survival inside Brazil?s most notorious prison. Based on a true story of the day of the Carandiru... more » massacre.« less
A good movie, although the filmmmaker, Hector Babenco, the writer director of the pristine story of a barely adolescent street criminal 'Pixote,'has played fast and loose with the true facts portrayed with a sort of documentary feel here. This is the story of a riot which broke out at the Sao Paolo House of Detention in Carandiru, Brazil. When it was over, 111 prisoners were dead, killed by riot police who stormed the prison.
For almost two hour hours, Babenco focuses on the lives of the prisoners, as seen through the eyes of the doctor whose book served as the basis for the film. Dr. Drauzio Varella, who has been sent to help discourage the spread of AIDS. The men tell him stories about how they ended up being incarcerated for which there are many flashback sequences). The prison is shockingly overcrowded and drug use and disease run rampant , but the men are treated well Prisoners have have the freedom to walk around and interact with one another .
But all that changes in the last half hour of the film after a riot begins and the prisoners are basically massacred in cold blood for the sin of challenging the system. Argentine writer/director Hector Babenco (along with co-authors Fernando Bonassi and Victor Navas) avoids the usual tendencies for good-vs-bad. The violence that the prisoners perpetrate on their victims and each other are conveyed by the filmmaker with a dispassionate efficiency and awe-inspiring swiftness that are indeed chilling.
As a drama, "Carandiru" overbusies itself in the boring details of prison life, but, really, the utter jadedness of both the prisoners and their guards, but that is the point. Babenco certainly draws the characters well for the viewer.
The film boasts an extraordinary ensemble cast, who offer many moments of levity. It's certainly my favorite prison movie.
An Epic Film of Monumental Importance!
Grady Harp | Los Angeles, CA United States | 09/22/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"CARANDIRU is in every sense of the term an Epic film: based on a novel by a physician who wrote of his experiences in the largest prison in South America (Carandiru housed 7000 inmates in Sao Paulo, Brazil before its implosion in 2002), it documents the barely known Carandiru Massacre of 1992; it examines the individual lives, psyches, and social behaviors of prisoners in a vastly more comprehensive manner than any other film about prisons; it captures on film the squalor and tragedy and even comedy of a segregated male population who must find a means to live despite the deprivation of prison life. Hector Babenco ('Pixote', 'Kiss of the Spider Woman', etc) has written a screenplay based on the novel 'Esatacao Carandiru' by Drauzio Varella, the physician who was drawn into the drama of Carandiru after his initial academic foray into gathering blood samples from the prisoners for his work on the epidemiology of AIDS. As portrayed with great tenderness by Luis Carlos Vasconcelos, the doctor becomes father confessor to the men within the squalid walls of Carandiru, gradually unveiling the secret pasts of the prisoners - their backgrounds, their reasons for incarceration, their modes of behavioral adaptation to life in the vast structures of Carandiru. Babenco has cast this enormous crew of prisoners with actors who are so fine that they offer some of the finest character cameos on film: Ivan de Almeida ('Ebony') is the prisoner gatekeeper who wisely controls the comings and goings of the men; Lazaro Ramos ('Ezequiel') is but one of the drug addicts whose dependence on drugs is far from his pre-prison life as a well-known surfer; Caio Blat ('Deusdete') and Wagner Maura ('Zico') grew up as orphaned brothers only to be joined later by separate crimes as roommates in Carandiru; Milton Goncalves ('Chico') provides the doctor with first-class medical assistance while falling in love with ( and marrying) 'Lady Di' (in a breakthrough role of the gifted actor Rodrigo Santoro, whose roles in 'The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone', 'Behind the Sun', and even 'Charlie's Angels - Full Throttle' show promise of a very important screen presence), and many, many more. The cast includes both female and male actors (Carandiru has visiting days when families can see the prisoners) and without exception, each role is etched into the canvas that is Carandiru in an extraordinary fashion. The point of the film seems to be a prelude to the last thirty minutes that very graphically depicts the riot and massacre of 111 prisoners by the prison's riot squad. But it is the scope of humanity examined by Babenco that creates our identification with the victims and survivors of this tragedy. Extra features on the DVD include deleted scenes, each of which is so fine that it seems a shame they landed on the cutting room floor, and a series of scenes being filmed showing Babenco in action as a director - certainly some of the more tender interactions between directors and actors on film as well as an insight into the way in which directors communicate their vision (and achieve it) through the filming process. There are also interviews with author Varella who has important asides about the adaptation of his book
The musical score is hauntingly appropriate, the camera work is some of the best you'll see in today's cinema, and the overall effect after the film is over is one of awe and respect for the director and the actors and the indictment of prison life to which we rarely have access. A brilliant motion picture, worth more than Five Stars!"
Stark, engrossing portrayal of life in a notorious Brazilian
RaabH | USA | 10/09/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is much more than a prison riot film. In fact, the entire first two hours are spent exploring the lives and back stories of a select group of prisoners. Using a technique that will be familiar to viewers of the HBO series "Oz", we follow each of the prisoners in flashback through the series of events that led to their imprisonment. We also come to know what level of status (or lack of it) they each hold within the prison pecking order.
The result is for the most part a detailed portrait of daily life at Carandiru -- rivalries, loyalties, fights, love affairs, drug abuse, and murder -- along with a portrayal of the warden and his staff that is unexpectedly sympathetic.
It is worth noting that, while the conditions inside are certainly filthy and deplorable, the prisoners enjoy a surprising amount of freedom compared to similar facilities in the States. What surprised me most is a "family day" that is held each year where parents, wives, girlfriends, and children come to mingle throughout the facility with their jailed loved ones. Families picnic together and couples enjoy conjugal visits.
When the riot eventually does break out, it is not simply because the prisoners are rebelling against the poor conditions .. it is also because of one or more events that take place. (Nobody is quite capable of saying exactly which event or combination of them.) What is far more clear is the brutality shown by the police riot squad as it takes control of the facility once the prisoners have surrendered their weapons. Blood literally runs through the hallways and down the stairwells. Having come to know many of the prisoners as people makes these scenes very difficult to watch.
Overall this is an excellent movie, although anyone expecting 2-1/2 hours of hostage-taking and violence will be disappointed by its insistence on first taking the measure of the prisoners' humanity."
Deliberate reflection upon injustice in Brazilian prison...
Kim Anehall | Chicago, IL USA | 11/11/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"In Sao Paolo, Brazil, there used to be a prison named Carandiru, which was torn down in 2002. Despite the fact that the Carandiru prison no longer exists, its haunting history cannot escape the audience. It is through Hector Babenco's direction the audience can view the brutality that took place an October day in 1992 when 300 police officers massacred 111 inmates. This dramatization is based on true events, and it is told through the testimony of a physician who worked in the prison before the riots lead to the carnage.
The story follows Dr. Varella who arrives to the prison to investigate AIDS and HIV, which was a rather new disease at the time. Through Dr. Varella the audience gets to meet a number of characters with diverse pasts, and how they ended up in Carandiru. Most of them are criminals in one way or another, however, their stories bring humanity to the dire prison. The stories depict the convicts' feelings and their lives in the prison as they have to adjust to the life in the overcrowded penitentiary. It is the struggle for an ordinary life in the jail that becomes the focus of the film, which also enhances the revolting behavior of the police force.
The depicted humanity magnifies the violence that is brought to the Carandiru through the 300 police officers that stormed the jail with assault rifles. This is reinforced through survivors of the bloody assault as they sit in on interviews in which they disclose their feeling in regards to what happened. However, Babenco does not reach the same level with Carandiru as he did with Pixote when it was released in the early 80s. The main reason is that the film feels somewhat staged as some scenes become slightly awkward unlike the rough depiction of Pixote. Regardless of having a staged atmosphere Carandiru offers a terrific cinematic experience, which will offer deliberate reflection upon injustice as the police force was not charged for anything after having murdered 111 inmates of Carandiru. "
Carandiru is now an inexistent symbol and the prize for its demolition was extremely high. It required 111 human beings, a cipher if you want minuscule compared with a front of War, but not less important if you think about a prison with seven thousand and a half recluses, living under infrahuman conditions. Hector Babenco, the same responsible for Pixote, decide to bet for a documental approach, this long introduction allow the viewer to know the minimum insights of that prison, told by every prisoner without restrictions in the two thirds parts of the picture. The human sensitivity, the singleness of the prisoners, his deviations, different levels of blame, had in common that crude word so easy to say and so hard to repeat: lack of affection in their childhood. The favelas (humble homes of Rio) are undeniably, the huge seed that will produce hundred and even thousand of unknown stories so far from us, but so easy to imagine. In those no man land, these children will suffer the worst calamities and unexpected humiliations and abuses of any nature. This cyclic state of things can be perceived in a great portion of South America. The growing population, the common denominator social: families without the father presence, the eternal condition of promiscuity from the early ages establishes by itself a style of life that is seen as normal in that social status. The childhood losses its charm and the imagination is replaced by the surviving game no matter how the prize be. Live or die in the unspoken consign, and the death, drugs, sexual deformations, and the loss of the real love feeling plus any kind of subterfuge that allows you to live until the next day is valid. No rules, no pain, no hopes. Live for the present and nothing else matters. In this sense underdevelopment can be defined as the unablity to transformation. This valiant and impressive picture requires from you all the required attention. The facts will lead to the violence; I mean, the violence is not by itself the initial spark, the spectacle circus to tell the story but the life itself, that as many of us know has a more vivid and fertile imagination than the best fiction writer or social journalist can presage. A merciless and extremely mature film based in real incidents. Not recommended for squeamish tastes.
"The best thing about jail is to get out of it"
M. B. Alcat | Los Angeles, California | 03/17/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
""On October 2, 1992, 111 men died at the Sao Paulo Detention Center Carandiru. There were no police deaths. The only ones that know what really happened are God, the police and the inmates. I only heard the latter". That is the way in which the director of this film, Héctor Babenco, ends his movie. OK, now you already know the end of "Carandiru". But what is the movie about?. That is the real issue, and what you will discover if you watch it.
In my opinion, this film tries to depict jail life, from the point of view of the inmates, their families, the guards and a doctor (Luiz Carlos Vasconcelos) who worked at Carandiru as part of an AIDS' prevention programme. The doctor says that at Carandiru "I heard stories, made real friends, learned medicine and penetrated a few of the mysteries of life in jail which would have remained inaccessible were I not a doctor". As spectators of this film, we are also allowed to learn what he learns, and to listen to the different stories the inmates tell him, specially regarding how they ended up in jail. Some reflections of the inmates were also quite interesting, for example when one of them says that the best thing about jail is to get out of it.
The film also depicts the Carandiru massacre, at least one version of it. The scenes that show the repression are remarkably brutal, and there is a point when blood seems to be everywhere. How much of what this film tells is true, and how much is fiction is something we will never know. Nonetheless, this version of the events had enough weight to convince the director...
Did I like this movie?. Yes, but I don't think this is the kind of movie everybody will want to watch, and it isn't a film I would purchase. "Carandiru" has many violent scenes, explicit language and a dark atmosphere that pervades almost every moment in the movie. Despite that, I don't regret watching it, because it is a well-made movie on a subject I knew nothing about. On the whole, recommended... "Carandiru" isn't the kind of movie I would like to watch many times, but I think you will miss something if you don't watch it at least once.