Note from BBT: We’ve all heard the saying “time flies”, and this definitely applies to the film that is the focus of today’s post. It’s always hard to believe when you look up and realize that 2, 5, 10 years or more have flown by in what seemed like a year or six months. I first discussed an upcoming film by director Jeferson De earlier this year….or so I thought. When I went to pull up that article I couldn’t believe I posted it in November of 2018. It’s been nearly two years since I first read about the film M8 – Quando a Morte Socorre a Vida. The plot sounded good and, as it was a Jeferson De project, I was already forward to its release.
For those of you who don’t know, Jeferson has often drawn comparisons to African-American director Spike Lee. Today, there are a number of talented Afro-Brazilian men and women film directors, but when Jeferson started over two decades ago, he and Joel Zito Araújo were the only two Afro-Brazilian directors who were getting any type of recognition. With a impressive list of short and full-feature films, I really hope that the new M8 film brings Jeferson the sort of recognition he deserves. This is not to say he’s an unknown as he’s won a number of film awards over the course of his career, but it still seems that the vast majority of Brazilians have probably never heard of him.
I don’t know how I missed this, but the trailer for the new M8 film came out back in back in June, but I’m just now seeing it. All I can say is that, I can’t wait for this film to come out. I was so captivated with the trailer that I watched it five times today. “This is going to be a great film,” I thought. In a two and half minute trailer, I saw so numerous issues that speak to the topic of what it means to be black in Brazil.
The film is about a black medical student who entered medical school through the affirmative action program which has been instrumental in helping hundreds of thousands of black Brazilians get access to a college education. The fact that the lead character is in medical is always an issue worth exploring as, even with a dramatic increase of black people on Brazilian college campuses, they are still vastly outnumbered in the prestigious courses such as medicine, law and economics at the rate of between 10 and 20 to 1.
Protests against the murder of rates of young black males also weighs on the film’s plot. In what has been labeled the “genocide of black youth“, this issue directly affects the lead character as the bodies that he will study and pratice on are young black males just like him. The feeling of his being the only black student of his class also speaks to a feeling of being “out of place” that many Afro-Brazilians experience as begin to have access that have been out of the reach of Afro-Brazilian population for centuries.
As many great films that have been made by talented Afro-Brazilian directors, particularly in just the past five years or so, unfortunately, I haven’t been able to see many of them. Of course, part of that is because as difficult as it is just for black Brazilians to make films, their films still aren’t guaranteed national distribution. Well, whether this film makes it to theaters or not, I will definitely track this film down when it comes out, even if I have to settle for buying the DVD.
“Why are all the bodies black?”: Film by director Jeferson De focuses on cruel reality of black life and death
The production caught the attention of many people with just the release of the trailer (watch below), which shows the trajectory of Maurício. Played by Juan Paiva, the character enters a medical school the affirmative action quota policy and suffers a culture shock and immense reality when he realizes that the bodies he is going to study in anatomy classes are made of destitute… and black people. Impacted by the experience, Maurício finds himself involved with the corpse, identified by a sign with the description M-8.
“Sometimes, I wonder if I’m not closer to these bodies [black lab corpses] than to my classmates [whites, students of these black lab corpses]”, reflects the protagonist.
The promise is to raise discussions about structural racism, institutional racism, social exclusion, violence and identity. The film, by director Jeferson De, based on the book of the same name by Salomão Polakiewicz, is part of the exceptions produced by racism when portraying the entry of Maurício, a young black man of peripheral origin, into a renowned federal university of medicine, as an affirmative action student. He is the son of Cida (Mariana Nunes), a nursing assistant, who worked hard to see her son go to college.
A bond between the medical student and the young dead man is created and he begins a saga to unravel the identity of M-8. Crossed by the anguish of rethinking his own place in society, the boy
begins a saga to unveil his identity, facing his own anxieties and rethinking his own place in society. In addition to reflecting on prejudice and exclusion, the film touches on universal issues about feelings and relationships.
Jeferson De, director of the award-winning film Bróder and winner in the Best Fiction Film category, by popular vote, in the 2019 edition of the Rio Festival, says that the protagonist realizes the structural racism that shapes society as soon as he enters medical school, a moment where the walls of racism rise ahead of him.
“The challenge of this young black man is, in addition to reconnecting with his ancestry, to establish himself as the subject of his history. For that, he counts on the help of his mother. Thus, we will accompany their journey in the daily struggle for life. It was interpretations of our cast that touched us and can help in reflecting who cares about our black lives,” reflects the director.
The cast includes such names as Mariana Nunes, Giulia Gayoso, Bruno Peixoto, Fábio Beltrão, Zezé Motta, Ailton Graça, Alan Rocha, Rocco Pitanga, Dhu Moraes, Léa Garcia and Raphael Logam. Lázaro Ramos, Henri Pagnoncelli and Malu Valle make special appearances.
The feature M-8 was produced by Migdal Filmes, co-produced by Buda Filmes and distributed by Paris Filmes/Downtown Filmes. The screenplay is by Jeferson De and Felipe Sholl.
M-8 – Quando a Morte Socorre a Vida, directed by filmmaker Jeferson De (of the award-winning film Bróder), is based on the book of the same name by Salomão Polakiewicz and tells the story of Maurício (Juan Paiva), a freshman of the prestigious Universidade Federal de Medicina (University Federal of Medicine), son of Cida (Mariana Nunes), a nursing assistant, who works hard to see her son go to college. In his first anatomy class, Maurício is introduced to M-8 (Raphael Logam), a body that will serve for the study of him and his friends during the first semester. In a journey permeated with mystery and reality, Mauricio faces his own anguish to unravel the identity of this unknown face.