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Film review: Todos os mortos /All The Dead Ones

(Mawusi Tulani, Agyei Augusto, © Hélène Louvart/Dezenove Som e Imagens)

Written by Victor Santana 

In the act of telling a story, the process of narrative can influence and change how one relates and deals with the happenings in time. A great narrative has the power to overcome the circumstances of time and bridge the gap of space between the moment when someone is listening or telling a story and the timeless realm where a story is taking place. 


The film "Todos os Mortos" is a magnificent bridge which provides us the possibility to cross time and touch a very crucial period of history in occidental society: the Colonial Era and the impact of human slavery. The story is passing in the specific context of Brazil, in the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century, where the society is changing from being ruled as European conquered lands to its present form as a republican organization. 


(Carolina Bianchi, Mawusi Tulani, © Hélène Louvart/Dezenove Som e Imagens)  

Representing two general forces of this society, there is the white Soares family, Christian, European descendants, which is composed by characters educated, owner of plantations, but perturbed by a past with deaths, a present of losing privileges and a sense of worse future. In dialogue, on the other side, there is the black Nascimento family, African descendants, recently free from almost 4 centuries of slavery conditions, trying to restore their humanity. The life of each individual character in the story is made in a way that the volume of the duality of stereotypes is diminished, and the volume of their complexities and relations is elevated. This equalized narrative represents a very important care that has been missed in many other reproductions of the same story, from school education to the political debates.  


This care, of containing all sides in consideration, is a more complex and interesting way to tell any story. And this is one of the great merits of writer/directors Caetano Gotardo and Marco Dutra, the actors and the producers of this movie, that by choosing to compose a sensible representation of a collective story, influences a change in the results of the colonial past, starting from the important aspect of how this story has been told until nowadays and by whom. Brazilian society still has a lot of work to do to find the way to let go of its primordial structures made up of 4 centuries, based in fundamental human inequality, and the artistic impact of "Todos os mortos" invites us to change perspective, improve reflections and through them change attitude towards the present and future. 


In both forces of the drama, music is an element that contains all what is beyond the specific conditions of each one of the characters, being a common point of shared humanity, independently of its forms. As well, another common human experience played out in a magnificent way in "Todos os mortos" is the condition of suffering and faith, represented accurately in its various manifestations. 


"All The Dead Ones" moves between realities and times, and gives us clarity to realise how much individuals and society are still made of its starting point conditions, and how much the colonial mentality is still present and operating in the individual and in the collective minds.


"Todos os mortos" (All The Dead Ones) competed in Competition at this year's 70th International Berlin Film Festival. This guest review was written by Victor Santana and edited by Lindsay R. Bellinger.  


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Berlin 2019: The dailies from the Berlin Film Festival brought to you by our team of festival ambassadors. Vanessa McMahon, Alex Deleon, Laurie Gordon, Lindsay Bellinger and Bruno Chatelin...
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