Directed in 1979 but edited and released in 1990, Leon Hirzsman's last film, the documentary "ABC da Greve" (ABC of Strike) is an account on the events of a major metallurgical strike, the first big one to took place during the difficult years of the military dictatorship (1964-1985).
Led by the metallurgical union leader Luis Inácio Lula da Silva (who later would be the president of Brazil for two successful terms) 150.000 workers entered on a strike fighting for better payments and better life conditions, against their bosses exploration. The workers reunions were so crowded that the police was called to intervene after a court declares that the strike was illegal. Workers had to find different places to protest and that included a stadium and some small meetings on a church (priests were supportive of their cause).
The documentary shows that despite some heated and passionated discourse of Lula, inciting the strike, and the great amount of people in the crowd, and the police's intervention, no one was killed, it was a peaceful reunion of workers who trusted everything their leader has to say to them: do not take back provocation, be peaceful, don't go to the factories entrance, don't disturb the peace and things like that. Lula succeed it in this task, was arrested several times (although this part is not covered in the film), and the strike went on and on until the bosses finally reach for a deal. This deal was not fully respected but since those days in 1979 the syndicates movement would never be the same and from this strike is that Brazil woke up and stood up for their rights, protesting against injustices (even though many of the following strikes, in other professions and in other states never were so successful as this one, and sometimes the occurrence of tragic events was inevitable).
"ABC da Greve" covers an important happening of that turbulent yet decisive year of 1979, where a new General assumed the presidency of the country, declaring amnesty to the expatriates in exile allowing them to return to Brazil and amnesty to the political prisoners. With all the opening in Brazilian politic the workers took a chance and pressured their companies, the media, the government, and instated the first step to the end of dictatorship and beginning of a new democracy that would appear in 1985.
The documentary interview some of the workers and some of the bosses (actually one to be exact), presents some famous artists that supported the strike like singers João Bosco, Beth Carvalho (sadly we're never able to see them singing, we only see them on stage performing for the workers. I think that their record companies didn't allowed any of his songs feature in the film) and poet Vinicius de Moraes among others. The main character of the documentary is Lula, and with his charisma and energetic speeches we know how he became a important figure in the nation, the support he had from people (and still has, after all when he ended his term as president he reached more than 80% of approval). Later, this simple man who had a very poor childhood founded The Workers Party, was elected congressman and become President of Brazil (2003-2010). The union movement was only the beginning of a powerful trajectory and it's all captured in "ABC da Greve".
As I mentioned in the beginning of the review this was Leon Hirszman's last film. He directed the film in 1979, moved to another feature film the important classic "They Don't Wear Black-Tie" (1981) which garnered him the Golden Lion at Venice, and died in 1987 without completing the work which was finalized by the director of photography Adrian Cooper in 1990. By this time many of the footage of the film was missing so Adrian finished with all the material he had, and that's why I think that the documentary is rushed (only a hour and half), it should have more things.
Despite not including captions that tells us who's who in the film, and that for most of the time we only see the strike (sometimes it features the narration of writer Ferreira Gullar) and we don't have a close interview with Lula, the documentary goes nicely, rich for its content, allowing a full look over a important period in Brazil's history. 8/10
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