Forensically detailed catalogue of state-sponsored killings paints a dark picture of the life and death for poor, black youngsters in Rio’s sprawling shanty-towns.
(Auto de Resistência )
Natasha NeriLula Carvalho
«Criminals in uniform, gainfully employed, took my son’s life», says a mother, mourning the death of a teenaged boy by the hands of Brazil’s militarised police, to a crowd of other poor, black women at a public protest.
«If the state did not allow the police to kill, they would not. The state is to blame,» says another mother.
A father, on an incident that left five young men dead in a car riddled with bullet holes: «How do you explain more than 100 shots – and all the victims shot in the back?»
Police Killing – screening its international premiere at IDFA’s Frontlight section – is a forensically detailed condemnation of the thousands of unpunished deaths at the hands of the police recorded in Brazil’s megacity of Rio de Janeiro every year, by directors Natasha Leri and Lula Carvalho.
Opening with footage of a public prosecutor’s reconstruction of the killing of five young men – aged between 16 and 21– in Rio’s poor Costa Barros favela (Brazilian Portuguese for slum) in November 2015, Police Killing is structured like a lawyer’s brief; patiently piecing together the stories of a handful of horrific incidents among the 16,000 deaths caused by police actions in Rio over the past two decades.
«In case after case, it is clear that the police are trigger-happy goons who feel they can kill with impunity.»
Searing images from police bodycam and dashcam footage, mobile phone videos from witnesses and other sources, put viewers in the middle of fatal encounters, where the police shoot first and ask questions later – or make crude jokes about the limp and bloodied bodies of their victims.
The film is structured around the few cases that come to court, a public enquiry where police chiefs and politicians glibly dismiss the dead as low-life scum, and the public protestations of victims’ relatives.
It strives to give both sides of the story while being clear that its aim is to expose the injustices of a system that couldn’t care less about the lives of poor, black kids scraping a living in the favelas.