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White Supremacy and Resistance in Bacurau’s Brazilian Northeast


In 2019, co-directors Juliano Dornelles and Kleber Mendonça Filho released Bacurau, a Brazilian film that centers on its namesake: a small, diverse community in the Northeast of Brazil under siege by escalating acts of white supremacist abuse and violence. The sertão—a vast, dry and sparsely populated landscape in the Northeast of Brazil—is notorious for its underdevelopment and intense, devastating droughts. The region is situated at the historical intersection of colonialism and racial violence. White settlement, the slave trade and the theft of indigenous land have transformed the unsubdued sertão into a landscape of resistance. Historically, Black people have liberated themselves from port cities and populous colonial settlements; and fled into the sertão where indigenous people had not been uprooted, and where they established quilombos, or Black autonomous communities of resistance. Bacurau explores these complex cultural dynamics and communities through a cast of intergenerational Black, indigenous, white, foreign and queer characters settled within a narrative that mixes Western (or faroeste), science-fiction and action thriller elements. While flawed, Bacurau provides a unique and nuanced insight into the dynamics of race and resistance that are unique to the sertão, and explores the ways that marginalized people can utilize community and violence as tools of resistance and liberation in the face of overwhelming force.


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