Brazilian film “Besouro” being shown again in Los Angeles at the Pan African Film Festival; movie about 1920s capoeira master was awarded best film in 2011



Note from BW of Brazil: When I recently discovered that the film Besouro was being shown in Los Angeles, California, at the Pan African Film Festival, something else caught my attention. I hadn’t thought about it, but the film was celebrating 10 years since its original release. TEN years?!? WHAT? Really? Then I sat back and thought about the three weeks I spent with friends in the city of São Paulo in November, 2009, during the November Month of Black Consciousness, and I realized that it had indeed been 10 years. Staying with a friend on Avenida Rio Branco who was working on his thesis in film production, I remember he had a bootleg copy of the film at that time.

At the time, I didn’t know the impact the film would have. The movie won the Toronto ReelWorld Film Festival in 2012, the Taormina International Film Festival in 2010, the Prêmio Contigo Cinema, in Brazil in 2010, the Festival Internacional de Cine de los Derechos Humanos in 2010, the Chicago International Film Festival in 2010, the Berlin International Film Festival in 2010, the Black Reel Awards of 2012 and many others. The film took 600 thousand Brazilians to theaters to watch the story of a legendary 1920s Bahian capoeira master. Based on the struggle against slavery, the film has a natural Pan-African perspective to it as it presents not only a majority black cast, but also mixes in elements of the Afro-Brazilian religion of Candomblé with the orixás (African deities) of Ogum and Exu figuring prominently in the film’s characters. Years later, Besouro (released in English as The Assailant) would have an influence on the 2018 blockbuster film Black Panther (released as Pantera Negra in Brazil).  

Obviously, I’m thrilled to learn that the film is being shown in the US again as it deserves to reach a wider audience. And with Brazilian artists using their talents to tell Afro-Brazilian history as well as turning the orixás into super heroes, the stories of both Afro-Brazilian mythical gods and real black historical figures are a potential gold mine in for the development of black super heroes. A market with billion dollar potential as we saw in Wakanda last year. 

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Brazilian film ‘Besouro’ to be shown again in Los Angeles

Courtesy of Hoje em Dia

In the feature film, Besouro has superhuman powers, like that of flying, conquered with the help of Orixás, that he uses to fight against slavery

This year, the Brazilian film Besouro completes 10 years since its debut in Brazil in 2009. The commemoration comes with the selection of the feature film for special sessions at the Pan African Film Festival – or PAFF, where it was voted the best fiction film in the 2011 edition.

Besouro will be shown again at the festival, held in Los Angeles, USA, on February 9, 14 and 18, at 6:00 p.m., 2:40 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. respectively. The film will also host a gala session with the director, João Daniel Tikhomiroff, who couldn’t receive the award he won for his feature film in 2011.


“I was running a series and I could not leave, I had no idea I would win,” Tikhomiroff recalls, in an interview with the O Estado de S. Paulo newspaper. “They insisted that I be there this time, in the session I will answer questions from the public.”

Besouro is the only Brazilian production to have received the highest award in the 26 editions already held by PAFF, an international festival focused on films promoting the cultural heritage of Africa. In the presentation of the film, on its website, the organization of the festival features Besouro as “one of the greatest Brazilian film productions ever made.”

The Tikhomiroff film is a fiction inspired by the legends that involve the real figure of Manuel Henrique Pereira, a capoeirista from the state of Bahia who was active in the 1920s and became known as Besouro Mangangá. In the film, Besouro has superhuman powers, like that of flying, conquered with the help of orixás, African deities, that he uses to fight against slavery that existed in the country even after the abolition in 1888.

João Daniel Tikhomiroff
Director João Daniel Tikhomiroff

“I’m thrilled and proud,” says the filmmaker about the feature film, which also received prizes at other festivals. “The film has a very Brazilian history, from the African origins and mythologies of candomblé to something completely Brazilian, like capoeira, that causes an enchantment all over the world.”

Besouro is a rare example of a Brazilian action movie with aspects that resemble comic books. The film preceded the huge superhero movie boom promoted by Disney’s Marvel Studios over the course of this decade. “He’s kind of a superhero. Although the real story is there, the legends about Besouro are very present, such as the fantasy of which he flew, or that when he died incorporated into other people.”

For Tikhomiroff, it is possible that Besouro served as a visual reference for Black Panther, a Marvel film about a fictitious African country, which in 2019 is competing for the Oscar for best picture. “I’ve already been told that someone from the production of Black Panther (released as Pantera Negra in Brazil) stated that Besouro was a reference,” he says. “It is possible, there are three very striking scenes from the two films that are visually similar, as well as the way the protagonist relates to the orixás.”

Tikhomiroff plans now to insert the legend of the Besouro Mangangá on television, in series format. The filmmaker is developing, with the producer Mixer Filmes, a TV project based on the character. This time, the audience will meet the spirit of Besouro nowadays, in a big city. “It’s the same character, but these days, in a different way,” explains the director. “But still a capoeirista (capoeira fighter) and with the relation with the Orixás.”

In recent months, news has circulated that the project was in production with Globo, but Tikhomiroff says the project’s channel of display is not yet defined. The same news affirmed that the series would have no relation with candomblé, which the director also denies. “It would be absurd if the character does not have this religious relationship, it’s something that is the basis of our culture, it would be a shame to waste it.”

Source: Hoje em Dia

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


  1. I’ve seen Besouro and it’s a great movie. But why couldn’t it have been directed by a Black person? As Black people GLOBALLY, we really need to start taking more control of our own images.

    • I know and there are so many talented Black Brazilian directors that you’ve been mentioning for years on this blog that probably won’t get the same chance this White director is going to get. Out of all of the Afro-Brazilian mythology and folklore that exist in Brazil, I’m surprised that a Black person didn’t think to direct Besouro first.

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