A pastoral account of the politicisation of Brazilian hero Tiradentes, Marcelo Gomes’ Joaquim makes up for its slow pace with delicious images.
Goldby Mark Wilshin
CAUTION: Here be spoilers
Celebrating the life of Brazilian revolutionary Joaquim José da Silva Xavier, otherwise known as ‘Tiradentes’, Marcelo Gomes’ Joaquim is a strangely truncated story. It begins with the martyr’s decapitated head on a stick, explaining his importance in Brazilian history, so much so that a public holiday is celebrated in Brazil every year in his name. But Gomes isn’t really interested in the conspiracies and politicking that led to the independence of the colony from the Portuguese crown. Instead, he ends at the beginning of Second Lieutenant Tiradentes’ politicisation, having observed the fight for freedom by the Quilombo tribe, a collection of runaway slaves violently proclaiming their independence and seen all wealth flow out of Brazil, a colony inundated with only the thieving, corrupt and lazy.
Slowly recoun ting the details of Tiradentes’ life from his liaison with the Administrator’s slave Zua (Isabél Zuaa), to pulling teeth, his panning for gold expedition, Joaquim offers a strong performance from Júlio Machado who metamorphoses in front of our eyes from black-toothed grotesque to industrious idealist. Although, Gomes’ film is really at its strongest in its anthropological portrait of the new Portuguese colony of African slaves, fresh off the boat colonisers, native Indians and on-the-make mestizos; it’s the melting pot of today’s Brazil caught at the time when its inhabitants began to think of themselves as Brazilians. And it’s delicious in its period details and cultural rituals. And while, with a wide lens and extended sequences, Joaquim keeps its viewers firmly at bay, Gomes’ film makes for an evocative portrait of the birth of a nation.
Joaquim is now showing at the 67th Berlin Film Festival