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Biopic of the Brazilian Citizen Assassinated on Suspicion of Terrorism
Rarely seen outside Brazil, even though part-funded by the UK Film Council and by the director Stephen Frears, JEAN CHARLES tells the story of Jean Charles de Menezes (Selton Mello), the Brazilian immigrant in London wrongly shot dead by the Metropolitan Police on suspicion of being a terrorist.
Henrique Goldman's film claims to be "based on a true incident," yet includes a lot of contemporary footage taken during the 7/7 bombings and afterwards, together with speeches given at the time of the atrocity by the then Prime Minister Tony Blair, as well as other officials including Metropolitan Police commissioner Sir Ian Blair. The film does not pretend to be even-handed in its judgment, as it portrays de Menezes as an innocent man trying to make a living in a tough and unforgiving environment, who was gunned down while traveling on the Underground through Stockwell Station.
For the most part the film concentrates on developing the relationship between de Menezes and his cousin Vivian (Vanessa Giacomo), as they pursue every job that is available, while trying to cope with living abroad. They largely keep themselves to themselves, largely associating with fellow-Brazilians both at home and at work. There is one sequence, ostensibly taking place in an underground club, where once-famous singer Sidney Magal (playing himself) performs to an ecstatic crowd of expats, emphasizing the strength of community among an under-represented nation in contemporary London.
The plot is a slight one: de Menezes ekes out a living as a builder, working for Indian tycoon Dilip (Renu Setna) but ending up coming into conflict with a fellow-Brazilian entrepreneur. Eventually de Menezes is forced to leave the building trade and become a sandwich-board person, interspersed with cleaning London taxis at dawn.
The cinematography (by Guillermo Escalon) is very much documentary-style, focusing on London's familiar landmarks interspersed with the grimy suburban streets where de Menezes lives.
Not perhaps the most interesting of films, to be honest, but it does recapture the jumpy atmosphere of London in the wake of one of its worst terrorist atrocities, that explained the Metropolitan Police's over-zealous desire to find a suitable suspect, even if that "suspect" was totally innocent.
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