White Out, Black In Dir. Adirley Queirós

[Vitrine Filmes; 2015]

Styles: documentary, sci-fi
Others: La Jetée, Alphaville

In one of the finest cinematic sequences I’ve seen this year, the opening scene in Adirley Queirós’ White Out, Black In shows Marquim do Tropa inside his warehouse-like home narrating a sequence of events of the past on a pirate radio transmission. His first person narrative of the events speak of a police attack at a black music dance club in 1986, in Brazil’s capital city, Brasilia, in which the cops invaded while screaming, “White people, leave! Black people, stay!” The man narrating the event through the DJ setup was present that day at Quarentão, the aforementioned dance club, and is currently bound to a wheelchair due to a tragic turn of events that evening. The second important character in the film, Shockito, lost his leg after being trampled by the advancing police cavalry while attending the dance.

White Out, Black In strongest moments comes from its two (real-life) characters as it explores alternative, innovative experimentation with their accounts, and the film becomes increasingly convoluted as it introduces Dimas Cravalanças (Dilmar Durães), a fictional character travelling from the future to gather evidence on the nightclub shootout in order to sue the Brazilian State in the year 2073. White Out, Black In constructs its narrative through a fiction/reality duality, where real life events and real life characters interact with a man from the future, a dystopian alternative reality, and a revenge plan against those responsible for the brutal attack at the dance club. However, these two dimensions seem to belong in two different films, and a mere juxtaposed duality is ultimately insufficient to establish dialectic complexity or narrative. On paper, White Out, Black In is a promisingly bold experiment, but in practice, it loses itself in a one-dimensional, heavy-handed social critique, severe pacing issues, and lack of focus.

White Out, Black In tackles an urgent contemporary issue through a dated, overwrought aesthetic, ultimately sinking in its own alleged brilliance. The film has been met with critical acclaim in Brazil, having gathered plenty of hype after it won several festival awards in the past year. A large portion of the positive criticism came from the left-wing press, which is telling. Brazil is undergoing a severe political-institutional crisis, and conservative, reactionary forces, which had been somewhat dormant (albeit still active), have now taken the political forefront. A political crisis within the political left, unable to find new pathways or aesthetics to reorganize itself, also reflects itself on Brazil’s contemporary cinema (although the same could be said of other popular art forms, such as music and the political cartoon, which has a strong tradition in the country). White Out, Black In is severely indebted to Brazil’s 1960s Cinema Marginal and Cinema Novo to a point where homage confuses itself with repetition and the film becomes unable to express its own voice. Brazil’s counterculture, political left, and political art have long suffered from nostalgia, and like the fictional character Dimas, unless it finds a way to return to the future from its past, it may find itself forever lost in a different era, speaking to ghosts as it bear witness to the destruction of its last bastion: artistic transgression.

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