PACIFICADO gets 6/10 Gangs of Rio de Janeiro

Directed by Paxton Winters

Starring Cassia Gil, Bukass Kabengele, Débora Nascimento


Filming in poor and crime-ridden areas cannot be hugely easy or accessible. So the existence of Pacificando, filmed throughout the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, makes it a unique treat because it’s a setting the cinema screen is not usually graced with. Unfortunately, such a unique setting is let down by a bland script that cannot lift up the tension or generate much drama among the gangs in these favelas.

The film begins with good intentions, showing the class disparity and carelessness towards the poor, with the young central character Tati (Cassia Gil) watching the opening Rio de Janeiro Olympic celebrations from her favela neighbourhood. The running concept of the police upgrading their authority in these areas is merely glimpsed at, but not elaborated upon a great deal, so this Olympics celebration barely ends up looming in the background.

The English translation of the film’s title, ‘Pacified’, is an irony of the police’s attempt to sweep the gang problems under the rug (as you do in cities that are holding the Olympics). But Pacificando presents more of an intimate view of this specific time and place, when Tati’s father Jaca (Bukass Kabengele) is released from prison and brings himself back into both the world of the favela gangs and of his family.

Pacificando is mostly reliant on dialogue, but still manages to convey more about these rough areas visually. It really captures the favelas in both their intimacy and their grandiosity, with one stunning drone shot in particular capturing the immensity of the upward trajectory of this neighbourhood’s hills and the stairways that lead up them.

There’s a looming feeling of violence among the gangs, but it feels too far away to ever give the sense that it could ever erupt at any time. Pacificado doesn’t quite hit with conveying a sense of danger, making it seem inferior to its crime film contemporaries (such as the very tense Birds of Passage). It tries to look more at the individuals than the gangs and families, but even they aren’t given the most exciting or distinguishing dialogue, despite the naturalistic acting making these characters feel like real people. This ends up as an admirable attempt to document the crime life of these favelas, but the lack of intensity surrounding them brings the drama in this film down.


Pacificando plays at UWA Somerville from Monday, February 17 – Sunday, February 23, 8pm.

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