No Kings (2020) **** CPH:DOX 2020

March 18th, 2020
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir.: Emilia Mello; Documentary; Brazil/USA/Luxembourg 2019, 88 min.

150 miles away from Rio de Janeiro live the Caiçara people, trying to uphold the inheritance of their ancestors from Japan, Africa and Europe in the Atlantic rainforest. Nature rules supreme here, and Brazilian first time director/writer/producer/DoP Emilia Mello has caught the spirit of the local inhabitant who live between ocean and rainforest, treating nature which the respect it deserves.

Mello mixes freely with both adults and children encouraging them to treat her like everyone else – and the kids have particularly taken this to heart: Lucimara and Marisol are two girls just under ten, and they certainly keep Mello busy: Lucimara introducing her to the art of crab collecting, and not always successfully. But later Lucimara becomes more friendly, asking Emilia to be one of her sisters, since the filmmaker is an only child – a concept which surprises the little girl.

Then there is Ismail José Costa, father of many, and trying to get out of the shadow of his father, who is a religious leader. Ismail is proud to br “the only person who challenges God. The only thing this King can do to me, is kill me. But after I die, I won’t feel fear. People often ask God to free them from the demons, but I don’t need either.” Aline da Costa is expecting her second child, and goes by bus to the Women’s Clinic in Ponta Negra. Here she is criticised for having missed two appointments, but she is only interested in the gender of the baby – and happy when she learns that it is another girl.

After the villagers have carved out a canoe from a tree, everyone helps to drag it over a fragile bridge from the woods to the ocean shore. Lucimara is not happy with the attention Emilia gives this undertaking and shouts “Emilia, film us here”, pointing to her sister Marisol, who is playing with her at the rocks near the ocean. Mello also undertakes three journeys on the fishing boat, where Ismail is the captain, and talks to her about his relationship with his wife. He has written a sort of  poem with the title ‘Just give me Love’ which is a reflection on their relationship which has grown stronger, after a stormy beginning.

Luiza’s turbulent sixth-birthday party symbolising the life of the villagers between modernity and tradition, makes for a strong final segment.

Unfortunately, the Caiçara people are not the only indigenous minority in the rain forest threatened by the new extreme right-wing government of President Bolsonaro. The army has evicted many who have fought against the loss of their land, and the feature is dedicated to the victims who have already lost their lives trying to keep their inheritance alive.

Mello’s free form, very much in the style of Jean Rouch, echoes the lifestyle of the Caiçara people. No Kings is unique in its poetic lyricism, and a reminder of just another loss of an ancient culture to the greed of the profit-orientated white race. AS

SCREENING DURING CPH:DOX | ONLINE 2020 | Copenhagen, Denmark 



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