Berlinale Bloggers 2019
Squatting as resistance
Brazil is going through dark times with its right-wing extremist government. The documentary films “Chão” and “Espero a tua (re) volta” portray landless workers and schoolchildren who want to protest and make themselves heard as squatters.
By Camila Gonzatto
Chão (i.e. Landless) is the first feature film by Camila Freitas. She follows the everyday life of landless workers who have occupied a sugar cane plantation called Leonir Orbak in Santa Helena in the state of Goiás. Because of its high debt to the federal government of more than a billion reais, the plantation was bankrupt. After workers fighting for land reform settled on the site, they began to use the soil differently and grow organic food. In addition to everyday life, the film also shows how the squatters organize themselves, how they make decisions and how the continuing legal dispute is proceeding.
One of the great merits of the film is that the performers trust the camera. It looks at the squatters from the inside, becomes embedded in different actions, and refuses to view events artificially from the outside. “It was a filmic process of creation. It took me two years to understand what was going on. I was very present and started to get involved in the activities”, says Freitas. On this basis of trust, the director manages to create a portrait beyond the stereotypes of the landless movement. Here the viewer can see this movement quite differently from how it is normally portrayed in the media.
RIGHT TO EDUCATION CONTRA POLICE VIOLENCEEspero a tua (re) volta (Your Turn) by Eliza Capai accompanies the schoolchildren movement in São Paulo from its first demonstrations in 2013 to the presidential elections in October 2018. The film focuses on the occupying of public schools when they were threatened with closure because of restructuring by the state government.
In the film, three teenagers who are part of the squatter movement assume the role of storytellers. The film images are very dynamic and assembled non-linearly; they show police violence, whose victims were the schoolchildren, and the lack of social support for their demands. "The repression in Brazil is fierce. And now we have a government that legitimizes and advocates it. We’re not very optimistic right now", says the director Capai. Important topics such as racism, homophobia and feminism are discussed by the schoolchildren during the occupation and in lessons organized by the young people themselves.