April 5, 2008

300 Words About: Mutum

In my review of last year's Manda Bala, I observed that Brazil has been the subject of some unflattering film portraits in recent years. This continued with the recent City of Men, but has been interrupted with Mutum, currently on the festival circuit and a stunning glimpse into life in rural Brazil. Directed by Sandra Kogut and starring non-professional actors, Mutum (based on the novel “Campo Geral” by João Guimarães Rosa) tells the simple story of a farming family and its universally relatable dysfunction in times of struggle. 

We experience the family's life primarily through the eyes of 10 year-old Thiago (Thiago da Silva Mariz), who is resented by his father, pitied by his mother, and adored by his brother, Felipe. Shot on location in hot, dry Três Marias, Mutum shows us a part of Brazil that we rarely see and probably don’t even imagine exists. Thiago da Silva Mariz carries this film the entire length, and the supporting performances are very impressive. You definitely won’t recognize anyone, and you have to remind yourself that you’re not watching a documentary. The hand-held cinematography featuring breathtaking and peaceful landscapes provides a striking contrast to the turmoil in young Thiago’s life. 

To be sure, the film is dramatic, but there are moments of joy (primarily by the laughing children) that are so pure and innocent you’ll feel like crying. The film is richly layered with religious and cultural themes, and the ending is one of the best I’ve seen in a very long time. Mutum is not for the impatient viewer, but those who give it a chance will enjoy it, and if nothing else you’ll see Brazilian culture in a context outside of the typical guns and gangs in Rio or São Paulo.


  1. Cheers, Peter, thanks for stopping by and I'm glad you had the chance to see this hard-to-come-by film.


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