After two year delay, film ‘Marighella’, about the Brazilian revolutionary, debuts in Brazil; learn a few facts about the movie and the man

Release of Marigella movie in Salvador, Bahia, brought together film crew and social activists
Release of Marigella movie in Salvador, Bahia, brought together film crew and social activists

Note from BBT: The wait is over. Finally. The first four words are not just my own, but also that of the Mídia Ninja website in reference to the release of the film Marighella, about the revolutionary whose surname is the title of the film. First name Carlos, last name Marighella. Hard to believe that it’s been nearly exactly two years since I last discussed this film and more than that considering my first article on the topic. I can’t exactly remember when I first learned of Marighella, the historical figure. It may have been 7 years, maybe 10, but when I did finally learn about him, I was surprised that I hadn’t heard of him sooner considering how much time I had been digging into Brazil’s history, particularly concerning Brazilians of African descent.

Marighella, like many other figures in Brazil’s history, is probably not very well-known among everyday Brazilians. But as I learned back in the first years of the 21st century, in many ways, Brazilians aren’t really taught their own history, again, especially when it concerns Brazilians of African ancestry. So, exactly who was Carlos Marighella? Well, if you don’t have the time to check out my two previous articles on the film, I could just sum him by calling him a Communist revolutionary who fought against Brazil’s brutal military dictatorship that started in 1964 before being assassinated on November 4, 1969.

Beyond these basic facts, there are numerous other details about the controversial figure that deserved both a biography and a biopic. Should he be remembered as a hero or a villain? Was he seen as black or white? Is his story still relevant for today’s Brazil? In terms of the film, which was presented in various film festivals two years ago, why did it take so long for the movie to make its debut in Brazil?

When you look at some of the reactions about the film and the circumstances, you have to wonder if there was a certain entity that didn’t want see the make its debut. For example, is one to explain the film getting thousands of negative online reviews when it hadn’t even debut? For example, check the article below that was posted early in 2019. 

Marighella: Wagner Moura’s feature film suffers boycott on review site

By Igor Guaraná

‘Marighella’ is the first film directed by actor Wagner Moura

Marighella, the first feature film directed by actor Wagner Moura, has just premiered at the Berlin Film Festival to critical acclaim. However, Brazilian users decided to give the film a low score on IMDB, a site that gathers information about film and television productions, as well as reviews about various films.

The only problem is that the film has not even premiered in the country, making such a low rating impossible. On the website, Marighella has 29 thousand reviews and an average score of 2.9. With the negative campaign against the film, IMDB suspended its rating system for the feature film. The suspicion is that bots, computer programs made to automate repetitive procedures, have been used in the strategy to negate its rating on the site, but nothing has been confirmed so far.

Before the screening of Marighella, Wagner explained that the film is not a criticism of the current government. “I hope it will be bigger than the (President Jair) Bolsonaro government, and it is culture’s first response to the current situation. Marighella talks about a person who resisted then and addresses those who resist now: the LGBT community, black people, slum dwellers…,” he said.

The pieces below will get into other issues concerning the film.

Release of Marigella movie in Salvador, Bahia, brought together film crew and social activists

Marighella: Everything you need to know before watching Wagner Moura’s movie

After being postponed a few times, Marighella arrives in Brazilian movie theaters still in 2021 – 52 years after Carlos Marighella’s death

By Vitória Campos (under supervision of Yolanda Reis)

After having its release postponed a few times due to the covid-19 pandemic and problems with Ancine (National Film Agency), Marighella (2019) has gained a new release date. It is the first feature film directed by actor Wagner Moura and features Seu Jorge in the lead role.

The film tells the story of Carlos Marighella, a writer, politician, and guerrilla fighter opposed to Brazil’s military dictatorship that lasted from 1964-1985. Because of this, he was brutally murdered in 1969. The production hits theaters on November 4th, exactly 52 years after Marighella’s violent death.

Carlos Marighella, 1911-1969

With that in mind, check out everything we know about Marighella:

Marighella’s Story

The film is inspired by a biography of Marighella written by journalist Mário Magalhães. In the production, we are introduced to the last five years of the guerrilla fighter’s life – and his violent murder.

Marighella was one of the main organizers of the armed struggle against the Brazilian military dictatorship, and in 1969 he was killed in an ambush by agents of the DOPS (Department of Political and Social Order).

Cast of Marighella

Besides featuring Seu Jorge in the role of Carlos Marighella, the film has other heavyweight actors, such as Adriana Esteves playing Marighella’s wife, Clara, and Herson Capri as Jorge Salles. Humberto Carrão, Bruno Gagliasso, Rafael Lozano, Luiz Carlos Vasconcelos and Bella Camero complete the cast.

Director Wagner Moura in front of an image of Marighella

Interview with actor/director Wagner Moura from 2019

By José Eduardo Bernardes and Mariana Pitasse

“‘Beware that Marighella is brave,’ warned an agent of repression before one of the many attempts to capture the revolutionary leader during the military dictatorship.”

The passage from the biography of Carlos Marighella, written by Mário Magalhães, portrays one of the main facets of the protagonist of the film.

The world premiere of the feature film took place at the 2019 Berlin Film Festival, days before the actor granted this interview to Brasil de Fato. At the festival, the film received a standing ovation. It also appeared in numerous other international festivals in Seattle, Hong Kong, Sydney, Santiago, Havana, Istanbul, Athens, Stockholm, and Cairo.

The delay for the release in Brazilian movie theaters was considered by the actor as an episode of censorship and pressure from the management of the National Film Agency (Ancine) in the Bolsonaro government. This is because Ancine’s Collegiate Board vetoed a request for reimbursement of more than BRL 1 million, made by the film’s producer, as the amount responsible for the investment in the commercialization of the feature film. This type of reimbursement via the Fundo Setorial do Audiovisual (FSA) is a right that large national film productions can have access to.

This is the first time that Wagner Moura, best known for his role as Captain Nascimento in the film Tropa de Elite, worked as a director. From the start, he took on the challenge of reconstructing part of Marighella’s trajectory: poet, communist militant since his youth, federal deputy, and founder of the largest armed opposition group to the dictatorship, the Ação Libertadora Nacional (ALN).

The film, which goes from drama to action, tells precisely about the most troubled and radical period of the Bahian’s life as a guerilla fighter. “My choice for this section also meets the desire that the film be popular, that many people see it, especially the people for whom Marighella fought, which is a question when you think that cinema is an elitist entertainment in Brazil”, he explained in an exclusive interview to Brasil de Fato.

For Mário Magalhães, author of the biography, releasing Marighella’s story on the big screen is an act of courage. “Even more so in a time of new censors, who want to prevent the story being told as it happened. Nobody is obliged to like Marighella. But to judge him without knowing his trajectory is stupidity. Marighella never provoked so much love and so much hate. He is more alive than ever”, adds the writer, when asked about the adaptation of his book.

Because of the choice of the character and the slant, Wagner Moura says that the film encountered barriers right from the moment of getting financing. “There was a total boycott. Although the film will open during the Bolsonaro government – at the time we were filming it seemed like a joke – but we were already experiencing a great polarization and a growth in conservatism. I, who have always been an artist identified with the left, so it became ‘the petralha (meaning Worker’s Party), making a film about the terrorist’ and nobody wanted to be associated with that. We received aggressive responses, but I am sure of the film I made and I am prepared to take a beating”, guarantees the first time director, brave like his protagonist and a reference of resistance.

Check out the complete interview:

Brasil de Fato: Why did you decide to tell the story of Marighella in theaters?

Wagner Moura: I am from Bahia. I suppose that Marighella’s name is the same all over Brazil, but in Salvador (capital of Bahiawe grew up with him as a reference of resistance. He was an important name in Bahia for those who were interested in resistance fights.

I have always been fascinated by popular uprisings. Malês, Canudos… and Marighella is a character close to this tradition. I am also a good friend, in the world of theater, of Maria Marighella, his granddaughter.

When Mário Magalhães released his biography in 2012, I was in Salvador and Maria told me: “My grandfather’s biography is out, man. We have to make a film. At the time, I agreed. At first, my idea was that the film would happen, I wanted to produce this film. It was a narrative that I wanted to see told, but I hadn’t thought that I was going to direct the film.

I have always been an actor very interested in work that goes beyond the set. I want work that challenges me artistically as well, so that’s where the story of directing “Marighella” started.

And what can a fiction film add to the story of Marighella?

A fiction film has the potential to spread and reach more people than a documentary. Documentaries that reach a large number of people are rare. I am a guy who comes from fiction, so I wouldn’t know how to make a documentary about his story.

Although it [the film] is based on a real story, on real characters, on a giant study by Mário Magalhães, which is incredible – he reconstituted the story of a guy who made a point of erasing his steps – our film takes creative liberties with scenes, places, people that didn’t happen.

The film appropriates elements that are from his story. Nothing that is there is different from what I suppose Marighella wouldn’t really do. On the other hand, it has fictionalized situations. For example, the guerrillas that are around him: I didn’t want to use their real names, because the ALN [Ação Libertadora Nacional] was so big, it had so many interesting people, and I don’t want anyone to think that they are specific people.

The characters are based on historical figures, but they are fictional’

Several liberties inherent to cinema were taken to make the film look good. But, of course, everything was done very carefully so that the figure of Marighella and his story could become popular.

Which Marighella is this, portrayed in your film?

The time frame is from the coup of 1964 until Marighella’s death in 1969 – the last five years of his life. This Marighella is the guy who decides to join the armed struggle, decides that this is the only possibility to fight for democracy, social justice, freedom, equality. To choose this slant is to portray the radical Marighella. But it is worth remembering that he was a person who militated in legality as long as he could. Because the Communist Party (PCB) was illegal almost the entire time.

Of course, from the cinematographic point of view, the actions of the ALN are spectacular. Our film is a hybrid of genres.’

It is a historical drama, but at the same time it has very powerful elements of action cinema. Once again, my choice for this slant also meets the desire that the film be popular, that many people see it, especially the people for whom Marighella fought, which is a question, when you think that cinema is an elitist entertainment.

I will do what I can so that as many people as possible see the film. I promised Boulos [Guilherme] that I will premiere the film in the São Bernardo camp, of the MTST [Homeless Workers Movement], and the MST [Landless Workers Movement] as well. Whatever I can do in this sense, I will do.

Mano Brown was initially announced for the role of Marighella. Why did Seu Jorge take over?

There is no one in Brazil more Marighella than Brown. Poet and guerrilla, loving and aggressive.

We started rehearsing with him, but it was very bad luck: it was the month in which the Racionais [MCs] did more shows. There was one a day, ending at four o’clock in the morning! It didn’t work out for him. He was so committed that he couldn’t keep up.

Rapper Mano Brown was originally cast to portray Marighella

He is a partner in the film, he wants the film to happen, the whole team is crazy about him, but it didn’t work out. So, we needed another actor.

Note from BBT: For many, the Racionais MCs rapper Mano Brown would have been the perfect selection to portray Marighella. In 2012 the group released the song and video “Mil Faces de um Homem Leal (Marighella)”, meaning ‘A Thousand Faces of a Loyal Man’, for a documentary about the revolutionary. After having seen clips of the documentary in the making, Brown committed to recording the song as an homage to Marighella. Speaking of the concept of the song, Brown revealed in an interview that he intended to tell Marighella’s story with devotion and respect, introducing younger generations to a turbulent period in Brazil’s history. He wanted to record a song that “matched the film” rather than simply making a song about Marighella. The rapper’s greatest inspiration was “bringing Marighella closer to the periphery, to show that he is a guy like us. A guy of inestimable value, a giant for the history of Brazil and for the black race as well.”

Seu Jorge is one of the most talented people in the world. His work in the film is absurd. It is funny that when the news that he would play the role came out, a right-wing writer said: “This Wagner is now trying to blacken Marighella”. He demanded the whiteness of Marighella. Seu Jorge, in fact, has darker skin than Marighella, but he was black, the grandson of a Sudanese slave.

Actor-Musician Seu Jorge, right, stars as Carlos Marighella in the film

Marighella was a defender of social justice and equality among people, but he never talked about the issue of racism, because it was not an agenda of the left. Nor is it enough today, as it should be. The left has not understood that you cannot talk about any social issue without talking about racism. Without understanding that the historical event that underlies our social relations is slavery.

Brazil was the last country in the world to abolish slavery. Brazil has in its architecture maid’s quarters and the majority of the maids are black women, who had their labor law regulated a few years ago – and that generated a polemic. Although this was not a frontal speech by Marighella, because he was not from the left at that time, but because he was a black man and a defender of social justice, the racism agenda makes a lot of sense in his mouth.

Seu Jorge being darker than Marighella is not a question. He couldn’t be any lighter.

Marighella’s mother, Maria Rita, and father, Augusto

Note from BBT: Obviously, haven taken the part, it was to be expected that actor Seu Jorge agreed with Moura on the topic of Marighella’s race. I discussed this question at length in a previous article but both the actor and the director have spoken directly on the controversy. For Seu Jorge, there was no question as to Marigella’s race.

“Marighella’s mother being black, he is black. The belly is black, you can’t deny the blackness of this man, right? The woman is black, the direct daughter of a slave, with black skin. The boy is born from her, isn’t he black? This is strange.”

looking further into Marighella’s ancestry we learn that he was born in Salvador and was the son of an Italian laborer and a black woman who was the daughter of enslaved people – being a descendant of the Malês, as the Muslim Africans were called. Marighella’s was actually born in May of 1888, only nine days after the passing of the Golden Law that abolished slavery in Brazil.

For the Marighella’s biographer, Mário Magalhães, whose book served as the basis for the film, “Marighella is the fruit of Bahia’s black culture, of his observation and sensitivity about the country’s social inequality, of his access to an extremely high quality education, synthesized in his years at the old Ginásio da Bahia, of the profound influence that his black Catholic mother and Italian father exerted on him, and, finally, of the political and social environment of Brazil in the 1930s.″

During filming, Wagner Moura dialogues with Seu Jorge, who plays Mariguella.

The film will be adapted for a TV series. Is it an attempt to popularize Mariguella’s story?

In some way, yes. This was a very difficult film to get money for. It is a big production and it does not use the Rouanet Law, although people are saying so.

The main support is from Globo Filmes – without them we wouldn’t be able to make it. So this is an agreement they have made with the productions: after the premiere in the cinema, they cut it and make a series in four episodes. It ends up being a good thing, because the reach that TV has is infinitely greater compared to cinema.

You commented in the press about some corporate boycott of the film.

There was a total boycott. Although the film will premiere during the Bolsonaro government – at the time we were filming, this seemed like a joke -, we were already experiencing a great polarization and a growth in conservatism.

I have always been an artist identified with the left, so it became “the Worker’s Party making a film about the terrorist”… and nobody wants to be associated with that. We received aggressive answers.

Are you prepared for the attacks?

I am prepared for the beating. I don’t want any of the actors to suffer that much, but they will. They are going to be violent attacks. We don’t know everything that is possible. When we were filming, there were some people who threatened to come onto the set and break everything.

I don’t have social networks, I don’t know how it is, I think I don’t know about most of the threats, I don’t see them. This protects me a lot from heavy energy. On the other hand, I’m not afraid of those things.

I am very sure of who I am, of what I believe in, of the film I made. I am very sure of the fragility of these people, both intellectual and human. Their discourse is to criminalize artists. For them, the MST and the MTST are terrorists, Marighella is a terrorist, human rights defenders are “defenders of criminals”.

The guy who employs thugs in his office says that the human rights defender is the defender of thugs. So, it’s all pretty crazy. The truth is over, it doesn’t matter anymore. This moment is very mediocre and very sad. It scares me and that’s what makes me afraid.

In your evaluation, what can cultural production in Brazil become in the next years?

Sad how the country that makes its artists enemies of the people. It is a discourse very characteristic of fascism. The artists who are historically linked to a more progressive thought are the first to be attacked as enemies.

Bolsonaro goes to Davos and doesn’t know what to say. “Girls wear pink, boys wear blue”, “School without Party”, all this sea of mediocrity is you wanting to eliminate everything that has to do with critical thinking. It is pragmatizing and dumbing down.

We artists are part of the universe that is proposing change. Not only because we are historically linked to a progressive thought, but because what we produce proposes reflections that disturb, and these people don’t want that. They don’t read, they don’t go to the theater.

When I talk about culture, I am not only talking about artistic production, but about everything that they want to destroy. LGBT culture, quilombola culture, indigenous culture, all of this is what a country is. It’s what makes any decent country develop with autonomy and self-esteem.

We live in an incredible, original country, recognized for this. But we live in a moment, not only in Brazil, but in the whole world, of extremism and violence. Jean Wyllys saying that he can’t do it anymore is sad, but absolutely understandable. Because if you have moral hombrity and dignity, your weapons are very fragile against this whole thing.

Some people have identified in the movie Tropa de Elite the figure of Captain Nascimento as Bolsonaro. What do you think about this?

I wouldn’t vote for Captain Nascimento for President of Brazil. He is a fictional character, no matter how realistic the movie is. This polemic is not new today.

At the time the film was released, journalist Arnaldo Bloch said that the film was fascist. I wrote a text for the O Globo newspaper saying that it was not fascist, but a study on how the police behave in Rio de Janeiro, on these promiscuous relations between police, state and criminality.

I categorically reject the idea that the film endorses the behavior of Captain Nascimento. But any work of art is polysemic. That’s not what I mean. For example, if “Marighella” had been released during Lula’s government, it would have been a film, during Temer’s government, another film, and now it is another. It is the way we look at it that makes the work of art what it is.

How do you see the scandals involving the militias and the Bolsonaro family?

The militias are organized crime. The organized crime in Brazil is the PCC and the militias, which have electoral headquarters, elect politicians, and are a dangerous criminal mafia.

Flávio Bolsonaro’s relationship with militia is public. He never hid this. I don’t understand the surprise about this.

He didn’t say a word about the death of Marielle, who was his parliamentary colleague. I’m not saying that he has a direct relationship with her death, but that he has a relationship with the policemen who committed crimes and has relationships with the militias. What is the surprise?

In this sense, how important is it that “Marighella” is released this year?

It is important because it is a film that comes to dispute narratives. Perhaps it is one of the first works of our culture that is frontally opposed to those who came to power in Brazil. However, they were democratically elected, they present themselves as in fact they said they were going to be.

Is anyone surprised that (the president’s son and also politician) Flávio Bolsonaro has a connection to the militia. Why is that? What is this astonishment? None. Is anyone surprised that Bolsonaro arrives in Davos and does not know how to talk to journalists about the economy? So, we live in a moment in which a minister of the Supreme Court [STF] says that it is not a coup of 1964, it is a “movement of 1964”, and another says that the dictatorship was not that bad.

Our film comes to dispute this narrative. To say that it was bad, that it was horrible, that there were people who had the courage to face it.’

The way in which this confrontation took place was radical. Maybe, if I lived through that period, I would not join the armed struggle. I see the business of carrying guns and I get goose bumps. But it is also very cruel, political analysts in Brazil, under the light of history, analyzing the option of those who at that moment, deprived of all their basic rights, chose to confront with force those who were oppressing them. This is a right of any people: to defend themselves against totalitarianism and oppression.

In an interview with Pedro Bial, before you started filming, you said you were “going to make a great movie”. Did you really do it?

I did. It is a really great film. I made the film I wanted to make.

I guess I am not a director, but an actor who directed a film. I went to Berlin three times: with Tropa de Elite 1, Tropa de Elite 2 e Praia do Futuro. There were only a few of us. Do you know how many people will be in Berlin now [in 2019]? Fifteen actors and some people from the crew. A group of people who don’t have money, but want to go to be there on that day, starting the journey of this film together. Such a powerful and special film for all of us who made it.

We all know the importance that this film has, politically, in Brazil. Even if we take this element out, if it is possible, artistically, what we lived through was one of the most profound experiences I have ever had. To see what the actors were giving me was something from another world. When the scene was over, I wanted to kiss, to kneel at the actors’ feet.

I understood the importance that the actor has. The size of the exposure that the actor presents when he or she is on stage, the crew, how each one was pushed to their limits to get out of the comfort zone. Nobody did what they knew how to do, I didn’t know how to do it. It was everybody together. I really want to tell this story. There will be more than 30 of us in Berlin, because the film was made with a lot of honesty. It is an honest film.

Source: Vermelho, Jornal do Commercio, Brasil de Fato, Rolling Stone Brasil, Diario do Centro do Mundo, El País Brasil

About Marques Travae 3747 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.

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