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Basic Sanitation, the Movie (2007)

Saneamento Básico, O Filme (original title)
A small community of descendants of Italian immigrants in the interior of the state of Rio Grande do Sul resorts to making a video to try to solve the problems of basic sanitation that plague their village.



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Credited cast:
Camila Pitanga ...
Bruno Garcia ...
Janaína Kremer Motta ...
Marcela (as Janaína Kremer)
Tonico Pereira ...
Paulo José ...
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Marcelo Aquino ...
Irene Brietzke ...
Zéu Britto ...
1st Workman
Felipe De Paula ...
Mayor's Driver
Sérgio Lulkin ...
Giovanni Martini ...
Boy with the lighter
Lúcio Mauro Filho ...
2nd Workman


A small community of descendants of Italian immigrants in the interior of the state of Rio Grande do Sul resorts to making a video to try to solve the problems of basic sanitation that plague their village.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis




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Release Date:

20 July 2007 (Brazil)  »

Also Known As:

Basic Sanitation, the Movie  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


Featured in Levels (2008) See more »


Io Che Amo Solo Te
Written by Sergio Endrigo
Performed by Sergio Endrigo
See more »

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User Reviews

Witty and (perhaps too) lightweight comedy with perfect cast
27 October 2007 | by (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) – See all my reviews

The citizens of a tiny, orderly village in the highlands of Southern Brazil are struggling to have a long-needed drainage ditch built. Bunk-bed saleswoman Marina (Fernanda Torres) learns there are no public funds for it, but there IS a local fund available for the making of a fiction short video. Pragmatic Marina decides to combine necessity and opportunity, and soon -- with the help of her husband Joaquim (Wagner Moura), her adopted sister Silene (Camila Pitanga) and Silene's boyfriend Fabrício (Bruno Garcia) -- she begins to write a horror movie screenplay about a scary Ditch Monster, so they can use the video money to have the ditch built. The problem is they don't know the first thing about making movies; they have to learn it the hard way but find themselves touched by "film-making magic", while the actual ditch-building gradually subsides to secondary concern.

After the critical and commercial success of his three feature films -- "Houve Uma Vez Dois Verões", "O Homem que Copiava", "Meu Tio Matou um Cara", some of the smartest comedies of Brazilian cinema -- director/writer Furtado leaves aside his trademarks (his mathematical, perfectly thought-out screenplay structure, his clever plot twists, his extensive use of voice-over narration) and challenges himself with a less tidy, looser structure based more on character than plot. Though it sags and drags in parts (the film is longer than it needs to be), Furtado retains his special ear for dialog and his love for characters who seem dumb but show unexpected wit (and vice-versa).

Furtado -- who made one of the most influential Brazilian short films of all time, "Ilha dos Flores", a sarcastic faux-documentary about garbage disposal that revealed the perverse logic of capitalist economics -- tries with "Saneamento..." to encompass four fronts: a) it's love letter to movies and a conscience call for movie-makers; b) an ironic (self-) criticism on the questionable cultural financing policies in Brazil; c) a commentary on Brazilian citizens' usual laissez-aller attitude regarding the fight for their rights; and d) a comedy tailored for its stars to shine in.

Based on Furtado's real experience -- he used part of the US$ 350,000 budget given to his short "Fraternidade" to build a sports court in a poor community --, "Saneamento" poses complex (though hardly new) questions: are art and entertainment superfluous in poor countries like Brazil? How can artists help change Brazilian stark reality? is it their job to do so? Is apolitical creative work alienating? How can Brazilian filmmakers claim artistic independence when they invariably feed on public financing policies (otherwise their films never get made)? Furtado can't answer those questions (who can?), but light-heartedly teases the status quo – politicians, financiers, artists and the audience.

Influenced by commedia dell'arte, the eight main characters in "Saneamento" are comedic archetypes that depend on the stars' expertise, improvisational abilities and audience appeal -- and they all deliver (though they struggle with the occasional cliché lines, wrong accents and some phony situations). Fernanda Torres, especially, shows once again her incomparable comedy timing, and pulls new rabbits from her hat just when we thought we had seen them all: she can move you AND make you laugh in the same scene. Camila Pitanga's luscious beauty and Paulo José's unfailing charisma are also highlights.

But we're asked to believe some far-fetched stuff that challenges our adhesion: it's very unlikely that, in a village that's far from poor and where people have TVs and DVDs, the characters would be so ignorant about page-one-basics of film-making, like what fiction, screen writing or editing are (c'mon!), or that actors fake fistfights (even small children know that). The use of Billie Holiday's marvelous rendition of "It Had to Be You" to Silene's bitchy video striptease also sounds terribly phony -- those characters don't look like they ever listened to Billie Holiday, let alone choose her for the soundtrack...

Perhaps what's disappointing about "Saneamento" is that it promises much more than Furtado delivers; after a while, we know the film's going nowhere special. Some scenes seem self-pleasing and unnecessarily long, like Paulo José and Tonico Pereira arguing over an Italian aria or Wagner Moura riding his shabby bike at 20mph for an eternity to the sound of Sergio Endrigo's "Io Che Amo Solo Te". "Saneamento" is lightweight (though its theme aren't), mockingly provocative and well-made, but it does drag on and is ultimately a bit unsatisfying, especially the very cliché denouement. Anyway, Furtado is such a resourceful writer and unobtrusive director that, even if this time his film isn't quite up to his usual best, it's still wittier, meatier and funnier than most contemporary Brazilian comedies.

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