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Call for justice

Police Killing (Auto de Resistencia)
Regissør: Natasha Neri Lula Carvalho

POLICE VIOLENCE IN BRAZIL: / A forensically detailed catalog of state-sponsored killings paints a dark picture of life and death for poor, black youth in Rio's vast slums.


in uniform, with well-paid jobs, took the life of my son ", says a mother who
mourns the teenage son, killed by Brazil's militarized police, to one
group of other poor, black women during a public demonstration.
"If the state did not accept the killing of the police, they would not do it. The
is the fault of the state ", says another mother. A father, about an incident that left five
young men died, in a car pierced by bullets: «How do you explain over 100
shots – and that all the victims were shot in the back? "

Police Killing – which had its international premiere during the screening in IDFA's Frontlight section – is a forensically detailed condemnation of the thousands of unpunished killings that have been proven by the police in Brazil's megaby Rio de Janeiro every year. The film is made by directors Natasha Leri and Lula Carvalho.

It opens with
recording of a public prosecutor reconstructing the killings of five young men -
between 16 and 21 years old – in Rio's poor Costa Barros favela in November 2015. Police Killing er
structured as a lawyer's review of a case; grunts patiently put together
to tell the stories of a handful of the 16 deaths that are
caused by the police in Rio over the last two decades.

Exposed wrong

Hearing images from police body cameras, footage from dashboards, mobile recordings from witnesses, and other sources, place viewers in the midst of fateful encounters where police first shoot and ask for – or turn raw jokes about, the limping and bloody bodies of their victims.

The film is built around some of the few cases that come to court, a public interrogation where police chiefs and politicians verbally dismiss the dead as "low-level scum", and the public protests of the victims' relatives. It strives to present both sides of the story, but it is nevertheless clear that the goal is to expose the injustice in a system that gives the blab in the lives of the poor, black boys who are trying to live a kind of life in the favela.

Police are thugs who know they can kill without being punished.

Only two percent of reported incidents – including those 1124 died in 2017 and 154 only in January 2018 – are being investigated. The rest is filed and forgotten, with a bureaucratic excuse that justifies the killings: "Resistance that led to death." And yet, case by case, it is clear that the police, whose job is to "pacify" the favelas or wage war on drugs, "are riotous thugs who know they can kill without being punished.

Police Killing (Auto de Resistencia)
Directors Natasha Neri and Lula Carvalho

Debt bliss
clearly illustrated in footage taken by a heavily armed special force i
helicopter which in 2012 plunges down towards a group of young, suspected drug dealers, and
let it rain bullets from automatic weapons down the streets from above. They don't care either
on evidence or proper procedure (let alone evidence of hostile fire, though
the footage later shows rifles lying on a table by the bloody corpses of two
young men). Eight policemen were charged with murder
after this incident, due to a recording of the episode being spread on
social media (posted by the men themselves). All were acquitted in 2017.

The helicopter pilot just shrugs his shoulders when he is interviewed by
the filmmakers after the trial, and says: "Drug dealers, who were armed, they were
only one who was killed.” The footage, which shows the bloody body of a skinny
teenager in cheap shorts and flip-flops being dragged away, only reaps cynical
comments from the black-clad, uniformed killers.

Brutal cynicism

It is this careless cynicism of the policemen that is so brutally depressing; perhaps even more than the tearful, angry mothers of the victims.

A mobile recording
shows three armed policemen standing over the body of a young man, presumably
drug addict – while the blood spreads in a ring around him. They discuss what they
will do, before they place a gun in his hand and fire two shots to
portray the dead boy as an attacker. In the court, one of the carpenters
the cops carelessly piece together a story worthy of a crouched toddler
with his hand down in a candy jar, about the discovery of an unsecured weapon and – to
prevent it from accidentally going off – that they removed the threat that
represented. "After all, he was already dead," he said.

In one case, where there was a conviction, played
police dashboard camera and mobile recording a crucial role: A police officer who
fired volleys at two youths fooling around with a mobile phone – killing one
and seriously injured the other – was sentenced to 25 years in prison. The policeman – one
22-year-old veteran of the military – "made a mistake", his defense attorney said. He
was scared. It was dark. He is a big guy who makes a big target.
"Drug dealers are thin and lanky and run fast," she added. But the only ones
the shots that were fired came from the policeman, and the boys that were mowed down,
had neither weapons nor drugs, and were obviously innocent.

uses little music; silence amplifies
the message in an effective way. It is a message hammered home through one
range of compelling material, which is at times overwhelming and a little too much
insistent – ​​some of the viewers may think that the recordings with paragraphs and quotes
from legal cases and discussions in courtrooms is a bit mostly made up. To shorten
by 10-15 minutes would not weaken the film's powerful cry for justice.

avatar photos
Nick Holdsworth
Holdsworth is a writer, journalist and filmmaker.

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