‘Elite Squad’ Provokes Police, Pirates, Pundits and Promotion

“Elite Squad”, a much-hyped film about Rio’s special forces police is having its official launch today in Rio and São Paulo, and the nationwide premiere is scheduled for Oct. 12. The peculiar thing about this release is that an estimated crowd of 3.5 million people have already seen it before its debut. The [unauthorized] copy of the film can be viewed or downloaded from many different places on the web, and the speculation is that more than a million copies of the DVD have been sold on Brazilian streets across the past few weeks.

Tropa de Elite
Capitão Nascimento

Praised as a “City of God 2″, but presenting a narrative based on a policeman’s perspective, the film is provoking heated debates across the country about the causes of violence in big cities. There are interesting discussions also on the morality of the widespread use of an unauthorized copy leaked to the web of an unreleased film. Surely, this case has made Brazilians go deeper into the actual meanings of piracy in the digital era, and it can turn out to be a defining moment for the audiovisual industry. Bloggers are all around it.

To sum it up, the movie is about police corruption in Rio and how the police, at the different levels (civil, military, etc) managed to extort just about everyone and everything in Rio. But it focuses on the BOPE, the “Elite Squad,” that is the Brazilian version of the SWAT. They are the ones who invade favelas, especially after the regular police botch up invasions or extortion visits. It focuses on the captain, who slowly unravels, and the training and selection of new BOPE members as they ascend from the ranks of the military and civil police… One of the main characters is a policeman and a law student, who tries to show these rich kids that they are the ones helping to cause the violence by buying drugs that come from the favelas, challenging the concept that the wealthy here are not to blame for the city’s violence, and that they are untouchable.
Friday FunAdventures of a Gringa in Rio

The film tells a tale in a microcosm and it’s message is the point of view of the policeman on the streets. It’s a welcome perspective as it has rarely had the chance to be presented. To the policeman who risks his life in dangerous operations to guarantee law and order, it is the well born lad going up to the favela to buy drugs [who is] the one who maintains this vicious cycle. But it is not. Here is the parallel: in the digital era, it is impossible to prevent a copy of such a film to spread like a virus on the Internet. It can be illegal, but there are no laws in the vacuum — laws prevail in a dynamic environment which is human culture. The drive to spread valued information is inherent to humans and, as the digital medium greatly facilitates the transference of information, [diffusion] will surely happen. In the end, as a result of being nonfunctional, the law will become obsolete and new business models will emerge to sustain cultural production — as always happened [in the past]. In the same way, the search for transcendence is intrinsic to human condition, [seeking] to modify perception through the opening of the senses through intoxication. It can be the athlete’s high, who while at the limit of his effort manages to modify his own biochemical balance producing an extreme focus on a sole activity, creating a sensible state of pleasure (those who run know it). It can be the beer, the light dizziness, getting free from inhibitions. Or the weed, cocaine, LSD, opiates. It is not because the law prohibits the use of some psychoactive substances that they will turn out to be effective [for altered perceptions]. Such substances will continue to be consumed. What really generates the violence is the law.
Elite Squad: piracy, and who sustain the (drug) dealersPedro Dória

One thing is sure: ‘Elite Squad’, by Brazilian director Jose Padilha, has turned into the most seen and debated unreleased film to date. From one side we see BOPE’s tough agents turning into the heroes of a frightened and paranoiac society, and on the other there is a police effort to block the film’s screening. In fact, Padilha tried to express that something is wrong with the system, where underpaid officers “must choose between becoming corrupt, neglectful or going to war.” But still some are accusing the film of fascism.

There is an established reductionism that overwhelms the understanding of violence and drug traffickers. The state blames the drug user, which is a line that the Elite Squad’s policemen are never tired of repeating. The side-lined population dreams about peace and tranquility, even if it has to be achieved through the use of some bullets. And although Padilha’s film presents in some moments and to some extent the issue’s complexity, they are not dealt with deeply. By the way, the only policeman in the film who tries to enter the university, and who is the only one who raises questions about these violent relationships, is also the one who is solemly scolded by the narrator, or should we say, the film’s voice.
Tropa de EliteBlog da Moviola

Elite Squad’s success affirms the growing conservatism in the national population, which comes as a result of the downfall of the labor market as we know it and the traditional popular leadership’s involvement with corruption. To have — as the solution for the country’s insecurity — policemen wearing black suits delivering death and terror to the poor under the flag of a smiling skull is a huge victory for the powerful elites. “Elite Squad, bone hard to be picked, catches one, catches all, and is gonna catch you too”. And if you don’t take good care, my friend, it will really catch you!
Killing for Brazil’s good, by Mário Maestri in Elite Squad Hero and Veja’s Che GuevaraPsico-História: Ficção Científica e Sociologia Crítica e Militante

Many commenters talk about the special quality of the film in stimulating discussions about difficult issues such as the level of violence in big city slums and the search for solutions for drug trafficking. An interview with director José Padilha explores his drive to generate debate with his films, as happened with his previous critically acclaimed documentary, “Bus 174“.

Aside from the pertinent criticism, ‘Elite Squad’ is an interesting film because of its boldness in taking on a difficult issue and stimulatin the needed debate — how can we justify torture as a means of combating organized crime? In terms of Brazilian filmography, this is a radical rupture with the 60’s generation which had adopted the lawbreaker’s perspective as an answer to the repressive state of the time. The truth is that the “be a criminal, be a hero” line does not work anymore. The word lawbreaker turned out to be a pejorative expression, the contrary of rebellion.
The Elite Squad effectReduto do Comodoro

“I made Bus 174′ in order to understand the kidnapper’s point of view, and I was accused of being a radical leftie. Now I’ve made ‘Elite Squad’ to understand the policeman’s point of view and they accuse me of being a radical from the right. But in neither case have I tried to justify or defend the attitudes of the central characters, but only to understand them. My point of view is different from Captain Nascimento’s. I am personally in favor of decriminalizing drugs. This would end the opposition between user and policeman. But I can understand the view of a policeman against the user because it is supported by a fact: those consuming drugs are somehow financing crime. A fact can’t be seen as an argument from the left or from the right. The policemen are underpaid, undertrained, and have to exchange bullets with better armed groups. It is understandable to be against someone who calls for public security but at the same time finances drug trafficking.”
Interview with Elite Squad’s director, José PadilhaMateus Lopes

It is undisputable that the big novelty brougth by José Padilha’s ‘Elite Squad’ is its unusual ‘distribution’ scheme. As the buzz around the film kept growing through the last weeks, the movie’s production team had to move from despairing declarations about the pirated version to impassioned rejections of accusations that they leaked the copy to the Internet on purpose, as a marketing ploy. There will be many interested people following the performance of the film being launched today in theaters, and bloggers are already taking on the new possibilities brought by the “leak of the year”.

There is the argument from the movie industry that piracy is killing the sector. It is an interesting point of view. These are the same arguments used by the music industry after the emergence of the mp3, and we have already 7 years on that. Thinking about the music industry, we haven’t seen the destruction of the sector, but only the breaking of paradigms. We’ve seen a reformulation of the business model. If the exchange of files favors the circulation of the content, it also works with films. Here is where the big challenge comes to ‘Elite Squad’. If the industry’s argument is right, the film will be a financial failure. But what if the contrary happens? What if the film achieves more than what was expected? If this happens, we will have a proof that the file exchange through the web won’t destroy any industry sector. We will prove that piracy, as long as it is strategically used by the industry, can turn out to be a powerful marketing tool.
‘Elite Squad’ challenge
Tecnologia e Cinema

I will leave a message to the Industry: Get real, seek new ways of earning money. Stop waisting time suing people and waiting for repressive actions to counter piracy in the third world, and concentrate on creating new and different user experiences. Capitalism is for the creative and dymanic ones — the slow ones die.
A Tropa de Elite e a piratariaResistindo

Summing up, I think ‘Elite Squad’ deserves support. Although I have already seen the pirated version, I will surely pay to see the best Brazilian film of the year. But, just in case, here goes the download links…
Tropa de EliteO último lampejo

I’m including some videos here regarding my long post about Elite Squad and the war in Rio. They are short, they are REAL footage and they explain the favela wars and about BOPE, the Brazilian SWAT and Rio’s war. And, they have English subtitles!
The real BOPE (SWAT)Adventures of a Gringa in Rio