Elite Squad has been a media event in Brazil since the first pirated copies of the workprint started circulating. It was an instant success upon its Brazilian release last fall and burst onto the international scene by winning top prize at this year’s Berlin Film Festival. The film is an adaptation of a book by the same name written by anthropologist Luiz Eduardo Soares (the former national secretary of public security in Brazil) and two police officers, André Batista and Rodrigo Pimentel. The book recounts the experiences of Batista and Pimentel as officers in the Batalhão de Operações Policiais Especiais, the Special Police Operations Battalion of the Rio de Janeiro Military Police. Soares is the former national secretary of public security in Brazil. Both the film and the book show police brutality and corruption, as well as the violence of drug traffickers, through the eyes and the voice of a policeman involved in a world where the war on crime itself becomes criminal.
This program is co-presented with the Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management at the Kennedy School of Government (KSG) and the Harvard University Brazil Studies Program at the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies (DRCLAS). Special thanks to Brian Walsh, KSG; Marcio Siwi, DRCLAS.
Director José Padilha and Scholars José Gatti and James Cavallaro In Person
Special Event Tickets $10 (Free with Harvard ID)
Monday May 5 at 7pm
Directed by José Padilha, Appearing in Person
With Wagner Moura, Caio Junqueira
Brazil 2007, 35mm, color, 118 min.
Brazilian Portuguese with English subtitles
From the experiences of the Rio police officers, Elite Squad seeks to
explain how the violence of fighting drug traffickers spawns police corruption and summary justice. Narrated by Nascimento, an embittered, bullish officer in Rio de Janeiro’s black-bereted special police squadron, the film builds a complex narrative around two new recruits learning the hard way that the police force mirrors the city’s underworld. Alongside its commercial success, Elite Squad has excited great controversy as an apology for police brutality. However director Padilha’s previous film, the hostage-crisis documentary Bus 174 (2002), which was a sensitive depiction of the spiral of poverty and inadequate criminal justice that both creates and feeds off urban violence in Brazil, suggests that Elite Squad may be more critique than celebration.