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An Agent and His Mission

Era uma Vez Brasília - Signs of Life

An Agent and His Mission



In 1959, the chain-smoking intergalactic agent WA4 (Wellington Abreu) was arrested for illegally occupying private land. He receives a mission: travel to planet Earth and assassinate the president of Brazil, Juscelino Kubitschek, on the day of Brasília’s inauguration. And travel he does. For 60 years of smoking and grilling meat in a shoebox-sized ship. When his supplies are about to run out, he crashes down in the fire-riddled satellite city of Ceilândia, where prisoners are being shuttled by the dozens by train. Once there, WA4 meets new outer-space warriors and his mission takes on another, greater purpose: total, brutal political upheaval. Shot almost exclusively at night or in the dark, Adirley Queirós’ extremely unique film is a kind of science-fiction documentary of its non-professional actors who live on the margins, in equal parts hardscrabble homemade Blade Runner and Cinema Novo. Crazy in a good way, Era uma Vez Brasília (Once There Was Brasília) expresses unrestrained anger at the current Brazilian political situation – speeches from both Dilma and Michel Temer echo on the film’s soundtrack – and the inability of the left to organize itself. This gains expression through an estranged narration, as Queirós jumps across time and space, but maybe only by being lost can Brazil find itself.


Mark Peranson

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