Movie Review: Serra Pelada

Serra Pelada was a gold mine in Brazil. The English translation of Serra Pelada is Naked Mountain. But the movie is known as Bald Mountain in English. I definitely would have to ask the translator or the studio on why they chose such a bland name for the movie. Even if the film had retained the original name in Portuguese, it would still have invoked our curiosity. Coming to the gold mine, people uncovered the precious metal in 1979. The mine was in full swing in 1980 and closed in 1986. The story of this film unfolds when the mining activities are in full swing during this period. The movie tells the story of two friends arriving in Serra Pelada with a dream to become wealthy. The two friends Juliano(Juliano Cazarré) and Joaquim(Júlio Andrade) have known each other from childhood. They are both of different temperaments. In the mines, they begin a partnership. As they amass wealth, their friendship becomes strained because of differing morals and principles.

We have seen many rags to riches story on the screen before. The sudden accumulation of wealth generates greed for excess and hunger for power. This indulgence poisons one's mind and alienates dear ones. Finally, there is the descent into despair and the longing for a new start. Such a theme always draws us to a movie even it is beaten to death before. The director Heitor Dhalia has set this story against the backdrop of the gold rush in Brazil. This move may have a significant effect on the local audience. The local audience would have either belonged to that era or have heard about the tumultuous times from elders. As this depicts a historically significant period in Brazil, outsiders like us are also naturally inquisitive to know more. So Heitor Dhalia succeeds in getting us the first part of generating interest in the movie. Unfortunately, he fails to keep us glued to the seats because the film gives us a sense of deja vu. We may have been able to overlook this fact because of the performers. They are great. In addition to the two leading men, there is Wagner Moura (well-known face after Narcos on Netflix) in a small role but an eccentric character. If his presence is not enough for the movie, he has also shaved the front of his head to portray a bald man. While Heitor Dhalia spends time in finalizing the appropriate cast, he doesn't devote as much time to tell the story. As a result, the storytelling is hurried and makes us lose interest somewhere along the way.

Even though the movie is not able to do justice to the era honestly, it still stands out for one thing. The inhuman conditions of the miners in these claims came to light with the photographs taken by two photographers separately. These photographers were Alfredo Jaar and Sebastião Salgado. These photographs show miners climbing the hills with ores, and these miners resemble ants. The mining has also caused environmental damage. The movie captures these in a disturbing way. I am not sure if these are stock shots or recreations. Whatever be it, these scenes blend with the film seamlessly causing us to wonder about the length people will go to make a living and fortune.

It is still worth a watch if you have nothing else on your list.

Language: Portuguese

Genre: Drama

Rating: **


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