Manda Bala

"OK"

Manda Bala Review


The most searing, retina-burning images in Jason Kohn's rangy, seat-of-the-pants documentary, Manda Bala (Send a Bullet), are in fact frogs. At a vast frog farm in central Brazil, thousands upon thousands of the slippery and slimy green creatures are raised in great water tanks before being unceremoniously dumped (they slide and tumble out helplessly, limbs flailing at the air in slow-motion like a breathing green river) into buckets or plastic bags. After that, they'll be shipped out of the country in massive pallets marked "Live Frogs" or butchered at home to end up as deep-fried delicacies. Kohn's film is really about the manic state of life in modern-day Brazil, and how people cope with it, but he can't help cutting back to those frogs. From aerial shots of the teeming favelas to those panicking, hopelessly flopping, doomed little amphibians; the point isn't subtle.

Although cutting often from one story to another, everything in Manda Bala comes down to one theme: How corruption at a very high level has helped create the crushing poverty and attendant cynicism which has fueled the explosion of street crime in recent years, particularly in megalopolises like Sao Paulo (population 20 million). The villain who personifies the government's endemic corruption here is Congressman Jader Barbalho, a former president of the Brazilian senate and one of the most powerful men in the country. As a parade of attorneys and investigators testify, Barbalho has been responsible for a staggering litany of sanctioned thefts totaling hundreds of millions of dollars and mostly involving fake public works projects (including the previously mentioned frog farm). But since elected Brazilian officials are completely immune from the civilian courts, Barbalho is still a free man, running his section of the northern state of Para like a private fiefdom. One attorney who's made it his life mission to get Barbalho for at least one of his crimes says, in a matter-of-fact way, that he'll continue doing it until Barbalho has him killed; which his shrug suggests is a definite possibility.

From here, Kohn shows how this sense of total corruption at the top influences street criminals like the serial kidnapper and bank robber he interviews. The man talks about how the rich don't care, and the government does nothing for the poor, so why shouldn't he take it back? He's even paying for a new sewage system in his poor neighborhood. It's all cause-effect, and with a capitalistic edge. Carjackings have gone up, so Kohn interviews a manufacturer of bulletproof cars (business is booming) and shows us the world's largest fleet of privately-owned helicopters (an increasingly popular method of transportation for the very rich who just want to hop from the top of one skyscraper to the next without ever touching the dangerous ground). Because kidnappings in which the criminals cut off one or both of the ears of the kidnapped (they mail the ears to the family as a way of scaring ransom money out of them), reconstructive surgery on ears has become a booming business for one suspiciously gleeful surgeon Kohn interviews. The connections are almost all too easy, and while intriguing, they are never quite delved into by a film that's too happy to groove on the surface.

There's a lot to like in Manda Bala, particularly its willingness to get right down in there amidst the gritty realities of Brazilian chaos and corruption. Kohn is a student of the great Errol Morris, and the influence shows clearly in his rather off-centered interview segments, where subjects seem often ill-at-ease and lost for words, often with an interpreter speaking their responses in English instead of having us rely on printed subtitles. Kohn also shares Morris' tendency to make intuitive editing leaps between subjects or themes, something he shows repeatedly in a film that tries to tie up a great big story including multiple narrative strands. Kohn has other, less welcome, influences, though, and they appear to be of the post-Tarantino variety, particularly when it comes to marrying a jaunty musical score (in this case, a strong batch of well-selected and sharp Brazilian rock and pop tunes) with scenes of deplorable violence or cringe-inducing brutality. This habit is easier to excuse in fictional film; when the subjects are so deadly serious as they are in this documentary, it borders on thoughtless.

I think I see my house.



Manda Bala

Facts and Figures

In Theaters: Sunday 19th April 2009

Distributed by: Slowhand Cinema Releasing

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 80%
Fresh: 40 Rotten: 10

IMDB: 7.3 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Jason Kohn

Producer: Jason Kohn, Jared Ian Goldman, Joey Frank

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Their Finest Movie Review

Their Finest Movie Review

Skilfully written, directed and acted, this offbeat British period film tells a story that catches...

Unforgettable Movie Review

Unforgettable Movie Review

With heavy echoes of trashy thrillers like Fatal Attraction, this movie overcomes its painfully simplistic...

The Belko Experiment Movie Review

The Belko Experiment Movie Review

The kill-or-die scenario that this movie hinges on isn't something new; it's been used in...

The Fate of the Furious Movie Review

The Fate of the Furious Movie Review

With the more dumbed-down title Fast & Furious 8 outside of North America, this overcrowded...

A Quiet Passion Movie Review

A Quiet Passion Movie Review

British writer-director Terence Davies (The Deep Blue Sea) is an expert at digging beneath the...

The Sense of an Ending Movie Review

The Sense of an Ending Movie Review

Julian Barnes' Booker Prize-winning novel is adapted into a remarkably intelligent, gently involving film anchored...

The Boss Baby Movie Review

The Boss Baby Movie Review

There isn't a lot of subtlety in this madcap animated comedy, which is more aimed...

Advertisement
City of Tiny Lights Movie Review

City of Tiny Lights Movie Review

After the latest incarnation of Dredd, director Pete Travis shifts gears drastically for this complex...

Going in Style Movie Review

Going in Style Movie Review

This is only technically a remake of the iconic 1979 film starring movie icons George...

Graduation Movie Review

Graduation Movie Review

Romanian filmmaker Cristian Mungiu (4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days) recounts another staggeringly detailed...

Ghost in the Shell Movie Review

Ghost in the Shell Movie Review

This sci-fi thriller is so visually stunning that it deserves to be mentioned in the...

Free Fire Movie Review

Free Fire Movie Review

Basically a 90-minute shoot-out, there isn't a lot to this movie. British filmmaker Ben Wheatley...

Life Movie Review

Life Movie Review

Like a mash-up of Alien and Gravity, this ripping sci-fi horror movie is very effective...

The Lost City of Z Movie Review

The Lost City of Z Movie Review

Based on a true story, it's the historical aspect of these events that holds the...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.