Carandiru (2003)

R  |   |  Drama, Crime  |  11 April 2003 (Brazil)
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Brazilian MD Drauzio Varella starts AIDS prevention in Brazil's largest prison, Carandiru, in São Paulo, where the population is nearly double its 4,000 maximum. Doc learns from experience ... See full summary »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Médico - Physician
Ivan de Almeida ...
Nego Preto - Ebony
Ailton Graça ...
Rosirene (as Aída Leiner)
Gero Camilo ...
Sabrina Greve ...
Floriano Peixoto ...
Antônio Carlos
Ricardo Blat ...


Brazilian MD Drauzio Varella starts AIDS prevention in Brazil's largest prison, Carandiru, in São Paulo, where the population is nearly double its 4,000 maximum. Doc learns from experience and mainly stories the tragic stories of hideous crimes which landed scum there and passionate dramas adding otherwise decent people. Just when he believes to leave the prisoners happy with a soccer tournament, a silly clothing line argument kick-starts a politically opportune revolt repression. Written by KGF Vissers

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Drama | Crime

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for strong bloody violence/carnage, language, sexuality and drug use | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:




| |


Release Date:

11 April 2003 (Brazil)  »

Also Known As:

Carandiru - A börtönlázadás  »

Box Office


BRL 12,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$1,977,227 (Brazil) (11 April 2003)


$213,954 (USA) (13 August 2004)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs



Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The real Carandiru prison was demolished in 2002, it will be transformed into a park with arts facilities. One block (#2) was left intact to be used as a museum. The film was the last thing they used the prison before demolishing 90% of it. See more »


One of the inmates is wearing a Brazilian national team football shirt with four stars, representing the four times that Brazil was FIFA world-champion. But the movie ends in the massacre of 1992, two years before they won the fourth title. See more »


Referenced in The Holiday (2006) See more »


Segura na Mão de Deus
Written by Nelson Monteiro da Mota
See more »

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User Reviews

Harrowing, but heart-warming
19 April 2004 | by (Edinburgh, Scotland) – See all my reviews

'Carandiru' is a film based on the real experiences of Dr Drauzio Varella. He worked in Carandiru prison in Sao Paulo, Brazil, in the late 80s/early 90s carrying out Aids prevention work. During his work he came to know a lot of the inmates closely, and as he was a doctor got to see prison life in a way the other prison workers didn't. He made friends with a lot of the inmates, and learned a lot of their personal stories. The prison is extremely cramped, and the situation came to a climax in 1992. One entire block of the prison fell under prisoner control and a riot squad was sent in, killing 111 men.

The film is being dubbed by some as "this year's City of God", but it's very different to last years Brazillian smash. Where 'City of God' had some very flashy direction and MTV-ized zip-bang editing, 'Carandiru' is pretty straight forward. The film still has some great direction though, Hector Babenco has a leisurely style (matched by his actual output, it's been 7 years since his last film, and nearly 20 since 'Ironweed'), allowing the story the space it needs to breathe but still picking up the pace to build tension. Ironically the only section of the film I didn't really like was the bit that was the most 'City of God'-like. When the doctor is dealing with his patients he asks each one what their story is, and sometimes it's a bit forced, just like in 'City of God' with the "now it's my turn to tell you my story".

Where it's very similar to 'City of God' is it's themes - it's essentially a humanist comedy with a moral edge, dealing with love, hate, revenge, innocence and betrayal. The cons are poor and murderous, but lovable at the same time. If this film and 'City of God' are to believed drug-dealing thieving murderers all have their hearts in the right place and are all okay guys who just took a wrong turn on the road.

There's a bit of a stink being kicked up at the moment on the imdb forum for 'Carandiru'. A lot of Brazillian's are posting, very upset with filmmakers consistently showing Brazil in a negative light. I think that although both films do have that slant to them, they have actually increased interested in the country, and even more so the countries film output, taking it to a global audience. If all Scottish films are to be believed we're all a bunch of Glasweigan Gangster Hardnuts or heroin-addicted thieving murderers too, so I fail to see what the fuss is about.

The director drives home the real point of the film in the last 20 minutes. The overcrowding and in-fighting finally erupts into a full-blown riot that results in the main characters block being taken over by the prisoners. A riot squad enters, and the ensuing rampage is one of the most graphic and genuinely shocking ever committed to film. Definitely not for the faint-of-heart. I remember seeing the prison riot being reported in the UK news, and being appalled at how crowded the prison was, and how a government could let it reach boiling point like that. The last 20 minutes really smacked that home, but with the closing shots of the prison finally being demolished in 2002 you feel like there was at least some sort of closure on the tragedy.

The story is harrowing, but heart-warming, and the acting (mostly from unknowns) is top rate. It's my favorite film of the year so far, but do beware the last 20 minutes, you won't leave the cinema feeling happy.

30 of 33 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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