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The Brazilian badlands, April 1910. Tonho is ordered by his father to avenge the death of his older brother. The young man knows that if he commits this crime, his life will be divided in two: the 20 years he has already lived and the few days he has left to live, before the other family avenges their son's death. He is torn between fulfilling his ancestral duty and rebelling against it, urged by his younger brother Pacu. That's when a tiny traveling circus passes through the vast badlands where Tonho's family lives. Written by
"And a little child shall lead them" - Isaiah 11:6
"An eye for an eye - until everyone is blind" - Pacu
A ten-year old (Ravi Ramos Lacerda) with a magnetic smile referred to only as "the Kid" (until given the name Pacu much later) narrates. "This is the story of me, my brother, and a shirt in the wind", he says at the outset. "When the blood on the shirt turns yellow, someone will die". Based on the Albanian novel, Broken April by Ismail Kadaré, Behind the Sun by Walter Salles (Central Station) is a story of revenge and brotherly love set in tiny Stream-of-Souls in northeast Brazil around 1910. A blood feud between two families over a piece of land has continued for generations. After a member of one family is murdered, a mourning period of one month is allowed, then the killing of a member of the other family takes place. This is the way they've always lived. "It's like two snakes I saw fighting," says one observer. "Each one was biting the tail of the other; they ate each other until nothing was left".
Since his brother Inacio was gunned down, another brother Tonio (Rodrigo Santaro) must protect the family's honor and avenge the murder. The family is poor and the father forces his sons to work in the burning sun growing sugarcane. "We are like oxen," Pacu says. "We go round and round and never go anywhere." When Tonio asks for peace, his father labels this as a dishonor to the family. Only when Pacu and Tonio meet the beautiful Clara (Flavia Marco Antonio), an itinerant circus performer, can the possibility of a different life be glimpsed. Realizing his longing to see new things, Tonio takes Pacu to the circus in a nearby town meeting Clara who also longs to escape from the circus. Though aware of his destiny, she visits him at home and they fall in love. In one of the loveliest moments in the film, Tonio holds a rope as Clara twirls above him faster and faster in a moment of exhilarating freedom. Seeing the joy on Tonio's face, Pacu knows that he alone must assume responsibility for ending the violence.
Behind the Sun occasionally lapses into self-consciousness, yet it is redeemed by the surreal beauty of the Brazilian landscape, the loving relationship of the two brothers, and the elemental power and relevance of the story. In this film, both families would rather be right than do what is nurturing. They accept the ritual of killing only because of some misguided notions about honor. Salustiano tells Clara, `They would rather kill than solve their problems; those are the real fanatics.' Any resemblance to people living or dead is not purely coincidental.
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