Sunday, April 22, 2012

Day of Black (orig. Dia de Preto) [2012]

Fr. Dennis (4+ Stars)

IMDb listing -

Day of Black (orig. Dia de Preto) is a masterfully shot and sound edited Brazilian film, written and directed by (alphabetically listed) Marcos Felipe, Daniel Mattos and Marciel Renato, which played recently at the 28th Chicago Latino Film Festival.  It recounts the story of the first African slave in Brazil to gain his freedom -- a prized cow (vaca) of a landowner (a "patrão" played by Paulo Abreu) had wandered off the landowner's property.  Under threat of death, the landowner sent a black slave ("o Preto", lit. the black man played by Marcelo Batista) to find the lost cow.  He finds it the next day on top of a hill on the landowner's property.  The landowner is so happy that he commissions the building of a church on top of the hill where the black man found the lost cow and gives the black man "papers" declaring that he is free.  But how "free" do mere "papers" make a former slave?

So except for occasional flashbacks to the original story recounted above, the movie actually takes place at an upscale Shopping Mall in the present day.  A Black Man (again Marcelo Batista) is about to leave the shopping mall in his car when he is prevented from doing so by a "Corno" (Brazilian Portuguese for basically "a-hole" played by Guillerme Almeida) leading a Posse (played by Andrea Cassali, Naiara Hawaii, Heráclito Junior, Deivid Araújo), a posse that could have been straight out of Quentin Tarentino's Kill Bill [2003/04].  Prevented from leaving the parking-lot, the Black Man flees back into the Shopping Mall, eventually hiding out feet up in a bathroom stall.  When he finally feels it safe to leave the bathroom, it's dark and the mall has long been closed.  He has to now find his way past a Patrão (played again by Paulo Abreu) of one of the stores who's looking for his wayward Daughter ("Vaca" apparently a rather derogatory slang term for "girl," translated in the movie actually as "b...." played by Vanessa Galvão) and of course "Security" (o Chefe played by Ricardo Bonaverti).  Can he make his way out of the Labyrinth of the Shopping Mall to freedom?

I have to say that with the exception of the fact that according to the two from the team of three who wrote, directed and produced the film (who were available for questions following the screening of the film) Dia de Preto was made for a cost of $100,000 (plus many, many hours of their own time editing the final product), both the sound and cinematography in the film were of the quality that make comparisons to Lars von Trier's Meloncholia [2011] or Terrence Malick's Tree of Life [2011] come to mind.  The sound was that sublime and the visuals were that eye-poppingly good!  How could that be possible?  I suspect that part of the answer lies in the fact the "day job" of the two film makers present for questions after the screening was in advertising, and commercial ads both in the United States and abroad often have an sophisticated, eye-popping quality to them.

Still, my hat off to the makers of this film!  The story was excellent and it was produced in a superbly chic, eye-popping manner that certainly catches attention.  Whether the future of this team of Brazilian film-makers is in making films or simply starting a world-class "post production company" based in Rio de Janeiro, I told them that honestly with this film, which is going to play the Latino Film Festival circuit in the United States and then go on to Portugal, they ought to really see if they could get this played in Venice or Cannes.  I really do believe it is that good!

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