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Hércules 56 (2006)

Documentary featuring contemporary interviews with 5 of the revolutionary activists who kidnapped US ambassador Charles Embrick in August 1969 in Rio de Janeiro and some of the political ... See full summary »



3 nominations. See more awards »




Credited cast:
Gregório Bezerra ... Himself
José Dirceu de Oliveira ... Himself
Jose Ibrahim ... Himself
Ivens Marchetti ... Himself
Franklin Martins ... Himself
Agonaldo Pacheco ... Himself
Vladimir Palmeira ... Himself
Onofre Pinto ... Himself
Daniel Aarão Reis ... Himself
Maria Augusta Carneiro Ribeiro ... Herself
Flavio Tavares ... Himself
Cláudio Torres ... Himself
Luiz Palma Travassos ... Himself
Paulo de Tarso Venceslau ... Himself
Ricardo Vilas ... Himself


Documentary featuring contemporary interviews with 5 of the revolutionary activists who kidnapped US ambassador Charles Embrick in August 1969 in Rio de Janeiro and some of the political prisoners who were freed from prison in exchange of the ambassador's liberty and flown out of Brazil to Mexico in an army cargo airplane "Hércules 56". Written by fabreu

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Release Date:

28 November 2006 (Brazil)  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Aquele Abraço
Written by Gilberto Gil
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User Reviews

4 Days that Changed Brazil
23 May 2007 | by See all my reviews

In September 1969, a group of Brazilian revolutionary activists fighting the military regime kidnapped US Ambassador Charles Elbrick in Rio de Janeiro, demanding, in exchange of his safe release, the freedom of 15 political prisoners, many of them leaders of anti-government actions and organizations, ranging from young students to old-time activists. First-time director Silvio Da-Rin (a veteran film sound recordist and mixer) interviews all the surviving participants (5 of the kidnappers and 9 of the freed prisoners), who recall the preparation and the kidnapping itself, their subsequent flight to exile in Mexico in the army cargo airplane "Hercules 56" (hence the title) under the armed surveillance of military troops, and later on their guerrilla training in Cuba under Fidel Castro. In "Hércules", they reassess the political circumstances, inner motivations and tempestuous, multi-fold consequences of their action in Brazilian political life.

The film may be a little difficult for "beginners": if you don't already know the basics about Brazilian politics in the late 1960s, you may feel lost now and then. Neither Da- Rin nor his interviewees explain how, why and which leftist organizations were active then, nor the ideological differences between them (though they ranged from legalistic confrontation to revolutionary armed guerrillas), or even what their acronyms stood for (ALN, MR-8, VPR, DI-GB, etc). If you're unfamiliar with Brazilian politics, you won't be aware that one of the kidnappers, Franklin Martins, became a famous political TV commentator in Brazil's biggest network corporation (!) and is now a minister of state (!!). Or that one of the released prisoners, José Dirceu, had plastic surgery to alter his face, changed his name and identity and come back (illegally) to Brazil, continuing his clandestine activities. In 2003, Dirceu became an all-powerful minister of state and right arm to Brazil's President Lula, until, in 2006, he was caught in one of Brazil's dirtiest political scandals involving active corruption and was forced to resign, in one of the most detrimental drawbacks of Brazil's first democratically elected left-wing government.

The reason for hiding that information may be obvious: Da-Rin doesn't want us to connect them with what they've BECOME, he's trying to capture what they once were. Besides, if Da- Rin were to "connect all the dots" (for example, giving them time to tell us how they regained legitimate citizenship), he would have needed some 4 or 5 hours (it's a REALLY complex and multi-layered saga). The important thing is this is the first time all the active participants of the notorious kidnapping -- or "capture" as Martins prefers to put it -- express in a single film their recollections and afterthoughts about that event that probably (as some of them admit now) triggered the violent counter-reaction of the military against leftist organizations, ultimately leading Brazil to the darkest and most violent times (the early and mid-1970s) of the military regime -- a time when illegal, arbitrary imprisonment, torture and assassination became routine practice against revolutionaries, artists, workers, union leaders, students and intellectuals.

One of the vital things when watching this documentary is to realize how incredibly young most of the activists were at the time (most in their early 20s), how each one's "commitment to the cause" and political experience varied greatly, and how the praxis of urban guerrilla was still thought to be a perfectly valid method of overthrowing dictatorial regimes -- Cuba still represented the realization of the Marxist doctrines and the proletarian revolutionary dream, though uncomfortable questions were being posed by controversial films like T.G.Alea's 1968 "Memórias del Subdesarrollo" and Glauber Rocha's 1967 "Terra em Transe", as well as by some top intellectuals. It's also fascinating to realize that there was once an era (those amazing 1960s) where political issues -- anti-imperialism, anti-militarism and legitimate democracy -- could apparently unite such different "birds" ("Uccellacci e Uccellini") as liberals, historical communists, rebellious/expelled military men, petit bourgeois students, intellectuals, artists and proletarians, today unequivocally separated in distinct interests, corporations and social classes, most of them (some placidly, some miserably, some shamelessly) just minding their own businesses.

"Hércules 56" is a significant piece of the mosaic that Brazilian cinema is trying to put together in its healthy effort to reassess for 21st century viewers the ominous 21 years of dictatorial military regime (1964-1985), something which can't, of course, be covered by one, five or even 10 films. Even if "Hércules 56" covers "only" one single (big) event, and even if it does require some homework from the audience, it's essential viewing for all those interested in Brazilian and Latin-American history.

PS: This same kidnapping is fictionally depicted in Bruno Barreto's romanticized and politically sanitized "4 Days in September" with Alan Arkin and Fernanda Torres.

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