Posted by Larry Gleeson.
Wanda Films and Marcelo Gomes bring forth Joaquim, a loosely based account of Brazilian henchman turned revolutionary, Joaquim de Silva Xavier at Berlin. Seemingly, Joaquim is a dichotomy between historical realism for mise-en-scene and a North American hit job to seal its commitment to the past and to a revolutionary future. Utilizing a hand-held, point-of-view frame, Gomez adeptly draws in the viewer to this world out of time (and world out of place with its diagetic sounds) to achieve his objective.
Surprisingly, he portrays the film’s protagonist, Joaquim, as weak, uninspiring and without a backbone. He positions Joaquim as a whiny, Second Lieutenant who is seen lusting after a beautiful, black, female slave. Unable to have her for himself, he stands by while the regional Administrator fornicates with her. As the grunts and groans grow louder, Joaquim is shown finding relief by galloping hard upon his horse.
Next, Joaquim is sent off to find gold. He picks a known prospector and another purported soldier along with a few natives to comprise a team. Off they go into the rugged territory where Joaquim believes the gold is waiting. Using Chinese-wok shaped sifters (without and sifting capacity). the men scoop stones and dump them on nearby rocks sorting through the worthless rocks with bare hands. The men grow weary and tell Joaquim they are leaving. Joaquim watches them go with hardly an utterance.
Only after Joaquim is captured by looting, indigenous black bandits does he show emotion – seemingly because one of the bandits’ members was his former black girlfriend and she thwarts his new advances.
In my opinion, the film never quite finds its feet. Overt attempts to create an artistic portrait of Joaquim would have apparently been better served creating a figure the Brazilians could understand, emulate or identify with. Instead, Gomes and Wanda films hand them a useless tidbit. Not recommended.
*Featured photo credit: © REC Produtores & Ukbar Filmes/Berlinale.de