Brazil’s movie industry is breaking records after “Tropa de Elite 2” lured 10.8 million people to theaters for a fictional account of corruption and violence in Rio de Janeiro just as the government invaded slums to fend off drug traffickers.
The sequel to the saga of Bope, Rio’s black-clad special police forces known as “the skulls,” attracted so many viewers this year that it’s second only to the 1997 epic romance “Titanic” in attendance, according to Filme B Comunicacoes Ltda., operator of a website that collects data on the movie industry in Brazil. Interest in the film drove 2010 Brazilian box-office sales to 1.15 billion reais ($678 million) through Nov. 21, 18 percent more than in all 2009, according to Filme B.
Almost seven weeks after its Oct. 8 premiere, “Tropa de Elite 2” proved prophetic. A 2,700-member strong police force raided the hillside shanty town slums known as Complexo do Alemao to halt a week of car burnings and street shootouts and attempt to end three decades of crime rule in the area.
‘It is a movie people needed to see,” said Filme B Chief Executive Officer Paulo Sergio Almeida in a phone interview from Sao Paulo. “It is an almost didactic movie about violence. It’s a movie that was in people’s unconscious.”
The biggest security operation in the nation’s history ended this week after President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva authorized armed forces on Nov. 25 to deploy tanks, helicopters and 800 soldiers to Complexo do Alemao in a bid to clean up crime ahead of the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic games. At least 37 people died in the violence.
The second part of the hit “Elite Squad” tells the story of Capt. Nascimento, Bope’s commander in chief, and his officers as they struggle to control areas riddled with shootings, murders, bombings and attacks on cars and buses. The film combines fact and fiction and includes references to violent acts, including the killing of Tim Lopes, an award-winning investigative reporter for Rede Globo TV. Lopes was burned to death by Rio traffickers in 2002.
The movie “mixes things that happened 10 years ago, with others that happened last year, with yet others that are fictional,” said Jose Padilha, 43, the film’s director and co-producer, in a telephone interview from Rio. “These problems repeat themselves throughout time. The history of public security in Rio de Janeiro is a history of repeating tragedies.”
While the fictional commander is promoted to state government only to realize his main enemy is no longer drug lords but corruption among his current and former colleagues, the raid scenes shown live on local TV haven’t yet reached a conclusion. Padilha said the movie is a warning of what may happen should authorities fail to make improvements to the prison system, police and education.
“The movie has a second half in which, after fending off the drug trafficking, politicians take advantage of this in electoral terms, but don’t carry on the reforms in public institutions,” said Padilha. “If the reforms are not carried out, I bet we will also see” what occurs in the sequel turn into reality, he said.
The original “Tropa de Elite” premiered in 2007 and won the Golden Bear award at the Berlin International Film Festival in 2008.
The sequel cost 17 million reais to make and has earned 90 million reais in ticket revenue since the premiere, Padilha said. It debuted as the film industry benefits from a rise in discretionary spending in Latin America’s largest nation, driven by the fastest economic growth in more than two decades.
As filmgoers continue to flock to “Tropa de Elite 2,” Padilha is already onto his next project. He is planning a movie about the biggest corruption investigation in Lula’s tenure, known as “Mensalao.”
“Tropa de Elite 2” will take part in several international film festivals throughout 2011 and may premiere outside of Brazil before the end of the year, Padilha said. No dates or locations have been confirmed, he said.