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in Filmmaking
on Jan 22, 2007

There are many impressive documentaries at Sundance this year but my favorite so far is Jason Kohn’s Manda Bala (Send a Bullet) in the Documentary Competition. Examining the violence, political corruption and rampant kidnappings in Sao Paulo, Brazil, this doc — with a brisk running time of 85 minutes — never lets you catch your breath as it weaves through numerous stories that are sometimes humorous but often excruciating to watch.

First-time filmmaker Kohn uses many traits of his mentor Errol Morris (piercing questions, amazing cinematography, powerful score) to tell his story. The film covers three equally compelling topics that are all too common in Brazil but foreign to us in the States: corrupt politicians whose actions can be tried but because of Brazilian law are untouchable; kidnappings that average one per day in Sao Paulo; and plastic surgery which many who’ve been kidnapped need to repair detached ears or fingers (which has also lead to frightened civilians bulletproofing their vehicles and using helicopters to travel).

Kohn interviews everyone from attorney’s trying to clean up the politics, the small staffed anti-kidnapping police unit, kidnappers and kidnap victims. But Kohn’s most clever tool is using a huge frog farm to parallel the different topics. The farm was built as a money-laundering front for one of the most powerful (and most corrupt) politicians in Brazil, and the farm appears often through the film.

Kohn is an amazing talent and I can’t wait to see what he focuses on for his next film.

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