Winner at Sundance, Brazilian Documentary Starts Promising US Career

São Paulo as shown in Manda Bala Manda Bala (Send a Bullet), the Brazilian movie that won at this year's Sundance Grand Jury Prizes for Best Documentary & Best Cinematography just opened in Washington, DC, this weekend, after having opened earlier in New York, Los Angeles, Houston and Boston among other cities.

Brazil in recent years, the country has developed a reputation for corrupt politicians, kidnapping, and plastic surgery. Manda Bala (NR, 85 mins, 2007, United States/Brazil) artfully connects seemingly disparate elements and conducts an examination of the tragic domino effect that has reshaped the face of the country and created an entire industry built on corruption.

From its unlikely opening on a money-laundering frog farm, Manda Bala displays a strikingly distinctive tone. Featuring a stylish score and articulate interviews with kidnappers, kidnap victims, and the people who profit from them, as well as the paranoid people whose lives they impact, it looks and sounds more like a stylized fiction film than a heavy political documentary.

However, it is never glib or trivial, and always inventive and haunting. It documents Brazilian reality without falling into patronizing cliches and reveals that corruption and kidnapping represent two sides of the same violent crime: the rich steal from the poor, while the poor steal the rich.

Reviews

David Fear from Time Out New York wrote: "Part of the brilliance of Jason Kohn's debut is how his film forces the audience to bind seemingly random elements into a stunning sociological Big Picture. Puzzle pieces fall into place until chaos-theory connections are made:

"One politician's laundering of public funds contributes to widening the gap between the haves and have-nots, favela dwellers make up for the discrepancy by turning to violent crime, thus spurring on a parallel economy devoted to security marketed for (and run by) the rich.

"Every cause has an effect, and the way Kohn's cine-essay eschews standard vérité vocabulary for an oblique, mural-like approach is spellbinding. By the time Manda Bala drops one final, devastating metaphor for urban breakdown – an image of black tadpoles sucked down a drain en masse – you feel as if you've witnessed a complete rebirth of the investigative-documentary form."

The Makers

Director Jason Kohn is a first-time director from New York.  At twenty-three he left Errol Morris's office to make Manda Bala. In the five years of producing this film he received the Sundance Documentary Fund grant and a Mortimer-Hayes Fellowship.

Kohn met his assistant director, Joey Frank in 2000, in the film studies program at Brandeis University. The two embarked on Manda Bala, both in Brazil and in the United States. During that time, Joey also received his B.A. from Brown University in the study of Art: Semiotics. 

Producer Jared Ian Goldman began his career in film interning in the Acquisitions Dept. at Miramax Films in New York in 1998.  Upon graduating from the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in English and Economics in 2001, he worked briefly at Miramax quickly moving on to GreeneStreet Films where he worked as the Manager of the Production Department.

Since leaving GreeneStreet in late 2005, Jared has worked on several feature films including Michael Black's "The Pleasure of Your Company" and Henry Bean's "Noise," starring Tim Robbins and William Hurt.

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