The documentary film Brazil Revealed gives insight to the culture, social conditions, geography, and art of Brazil through vignettes which focus on the lives of specific individuals. Unlike many documentary films about a country and its history, which tend to focus on famous individuals in politics, history, and the arts; Brazil Revealed gives the viewer an intimate view of the lives of everyday citizens.
The film opens with the story of a merchant named Caneta who transports his goods into remote villages alongside the Amazon river.
Much of the Amazon is inaccessible via main roads, so merchants must make long and grueling journeys on the water in order to meet their clients. Caneta comes from a long generational line of river traders who exchange goods for money and resources with caboclos, indigenous Brazilian people of mixed ethnic backgrounds. Caneta’s work exposes him to a number of threats including dangerous weather conditions and malfunctioning equipment, and during his deliveries he must keep a low profile in certain regions to avoid confrontations with pirates seeking to pillage his supplies.
Another individual profiled in the film is a martial artist named Boa Gente. Boa Gente practices capoeira, a form of martial arts that owes its history to the African slaves brought to Brazil in the 18th century. During the Atlantic slave trade, Brazil had more slaves than any other country, and its history was heavily shaped by the slaves it imported. Among the cultural phenomena pioneered by slaves in Brazil was capoeira, an amalgamation of combat and dance.
According to the documentary, capoeira had to be disguised as a form of dance so that it would be left unknown that African slaves were practicing combat methods (though it had to be practiced in secret nonetheless). Capoeira involves an array of physical techniques as well as musical styles, with its own instruments and traditions unique to itself.
Boa Gente had a strenuous, poverty-stricken, fatherless childhood that put him at risk from an early age, but by practicing capoeira, he was able to cultivate a level of discipline that kept him out of trouble. Gente puts his expertise to work, training at-risk youth in the favela of Vale Das Pedrinhas, an impoverished region riddled with crime and violence.
One of Gente’s students is Jackson Dos Santos, a fatherless child whose obstinate, withdrawn, and violent tendencies have begun to worry his mother. Prior to his time with Boa Gente, Jackson spent his days skipping school, fighting other children, and staying out late on the streets in his dangerous neighborhood. When he began training with Boa Gente, Jackson managed to shift his course in life and learn the virtues of discipline, grit, and humility.
Another individual profiled in the film was Clarissa Pinhiero Pereira, a helicopter taxi pilot in São Paulo, the most populous and expansive city in the continent. Clarissa, who, at the time the documentary was made was only 23 years old, is an exceptional pilot. She was one of three female pilots in São Paulo, and spent long days transporting the wealthy across the city. After her busy days spent flying, Clarissa would work hard in flight school to become a fully qualified and capable pilot.
Another Paulistano profiled was Rodrigo Ferreira de Souza, a rodeo rider and cowboy in the heart of Brazil’s labor-run cattle industry. Rodrigo cares for rodeo bulls and prepares them for competitions in which rodeo bull riders test their abilities to stay mounted on the animals as they rampage around the arena. Alongside his rodeo job, Rodrigo practices bull riding in the hopes that he can someday find success as a famous bull rider, an occupation with deep cultural significance in Brazil.
Like bull riding, soccer has a profound cultural importance in Brazil. The documentary profiled an infamous soccer referee named Paulinho, a short-statured man who commands the players of the Peladão, an annual soccer tournament with thousands of amateur participants deeply dedicated to the sport. Having been the head referee since the 1972 conception of the tournament, Paulinho has a strong reputation among players as a fierce and demanding referee.
Among the athletes in training for the Peladão was a 19-year-old Manaus resident named Jackie. Jackie, like most Brazilians, spends several hours a day getting to work on public transit (according to the film, Brazilians spend an average 20% of their salary on transit alone). Working as a housemaid, Jackie spends long days cleaning and caring for children in Manaus, a landlocked Amazonian city that was once the richest city in the world due to its rubber production, but was left isolated and unknown when its rubber boom came to a close.
When she’s not working, Jackie spends her time practicing soccer to prepare for the Peladão. After forming an all-female team with her friends, Jackie’s participation in the tournament was almost threatened due to documenting issues, but thanks to Paulinho’s decision to waive her documents, Jackie was able to make her childhood dream — playing in the Peladão — come true.
Another individual profiled was Lays Lopes. Lays lived in Ouro Preto, a historical city that was once the center of the gold rush in Brazil. Ouro Preto was once the wealthiest city in Brazil thanks to its robust mining industry, but, much like Manaus, was quickly left destitute and forgotten when the mines ran dry. Because of its sudden halt in development and subsequent isolation, Ouro Preto is one of the best-preserved examples of Brazil’s colonial era. Lays seeks to involve herself with the city’s grand Easter Sunday parade by participating in the construction of a long carpet of petals upon which the people of Ouro Preto march, paying homage to Roman Catholic traditions each Easter.
One of the cities explored in Brazil Revealed was Brasília, a city unlike any other in the country. Brasília was created in the 1950s to attract wealthier residents and provide a new seat of government for the country. The city is home to some of the wealthiest Brazilians, as well as many public servants who work for the country’s government. Among these civil servants is Luciana Chaves, a Justice Department worker who aspires to dance the samba in the Rio Carnaval.