Héctor Babenco directs Luiz Carlos, Rodrigo Santoro and Ciao Blat in this poetic yet gritty look at a prison community in Brasil, set in the real life dilapidated complex that eventually saw a riot, massacre and a demolition.
A sprawlingly messy and captivating look at a tough yet vibrant subculture. São Paulo lock-up is certainly more open yet chaotic than what we see in the States or the West. If you loved City of God, you’ll find much to marvel at here. The street life flashbacks and gang affiliations are presented in a similar harsh yet strangely romantic light, while incarcerated life is often given the incongruous sheen of magical realism. Babenco’s progressive attitudes towards representing homosexuality and the unflinching shock of the tragic final act make this much more than an freak show for the curious yet law abiding viewer. Broad yet powerful.