Manda Bala | Chicago Reader

Manda Bala

To address the economic inequality of teeming Sao Paulo, Brazil, documentary maker Jason Kohn has joined several loosely related topics into a sort of rhetorical doughnut, leaving a hole in the center where his thesis should be. The wide-screen film opens on a gigantic frog farm in central Brazil, setting up an allegation by innuendo that career politician Jader Barbalho embezzled more than $8 million of a government grant to build a similar farm. Other strains, some of them fascinating, center on the kidnapping epidemic in Sao Paulo that has created cottage industries in bulletproof cars, microchip implants, and surgical reconstruction of victims' severed ears. According to the press notes, this all proves that “the rich steal from the poor, while the poor steal from the rich”—true enough, though not exactly revelatory. Scenes of harvested frogs provide an apt metaphor for Brazil's miserable have-nots, so apt that Kohn can't resist beating it to death. In English and subtitled Portuguese. 86 min.


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