Two months ago, I brought word that Brazilian filmmaker José Padilha is moving on up to Hollywood, but now comes word that he has first squeezed in a new documentary. The film is titled Garapa, and like both his brilliant debut, Bus 174, and his recent Golden Bear-winning follow-up, Tropa de Elite, it deals with social problems affecting his homeland. This time, he traveled to the poverty-stricken northeast, where he documented three families struggling to feed themselves, despite the nation's current economic boom and seemingly successful welfare program. Garapa was also shot in black and white with hand-held cameras and features no music score, to keep things simple and straightforward. It can't be said, though, that Padilha went for a non-intrusive style, and he admits that during and since the shoot, he's been compelled to assist the families directly.

Considering Bus 174 is one of the boldest, most powerful documentaries of the past 10 years, it's good to see Padilha returning to the documentary genre. The controversially divisive Tropa de Elite (which Cinematical reviewed at Tribeca and which will receive a day-and-date release this September) was still non-fiction, but it was a dramatization. When it was announced that he had been wooed to make a studio-produced action film, I was as disappointed as I was excited. Fortunately, he's keeping the documentary thing going simultaneously, and he's even already working on his next doc, which will be about the Yanomami Indians, natives of the Amazon rainforest who were previously unappealingly fictionalized in the exploitation film Cannibal Holocaust.

According to Reuters, Padilha also has two other films in the works, one about a combat sport called Vale Tudo (Portugese for "anything goes") and one about the financing of politicians. There is no mention of the Hollywood action movie. Garapa will open in Brazil this September. Hopefully it will receive U.S. distribution, too.
CATEGORIES Cinematical