Junho – O Mês que Abalou o Brasil (June – The Month That Shook Brazil) Review

Posted: June 13, 2014 in Documentary, Reviews
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

junho08The documentary Junho – O Mês que Abalou o Brasil (June – The Month That Shook Brazil) resembles nothing so much as one of the quickie mass market paperbacks that are rushed to print by newspapers or other media outlets to capitalize on the attention that a particular story has generated. These books are usually little more than a collection of previously published accounts with scant space for context or analysis.

Junho is a filmed version of the same phenomenon. The Brazilian newspaper, Folha de São Paulo, has rushed to get a movie out with a nebulous tie to the World Cup in the hope to capitalize on the attention now focused on that event as well as on the counter-demonstrations that are expected to be held throughout Brazil over the next month.

The documentary covers the protests that began in São Paulo last June and spread across the country in the course of the month. What started as a rally against an increase in public transportation fares evolved into a larger political movement that reflected widespread discontent with the status quo. In many ways, the turmoil resembled the Occupy Wall Street movement that ignited in New York in September 2011, but that comparison, and most other insights into the significance of what occurred, has to made by the viewer. Unlike Another World, the imperfect but plucky documentary that examined the Occupy movement, Junho lacks any narrative structure other than the calendar. A date in June flashes up, news footage runs, an after-interview with a participant is shown, a talking head explains – and then it’s on to the next day.

The result is a frustratingly superficial product. The diversity of Brazil is on display, but the context for the competing tensions within the society is absent. Politcians are shown to be as craven and opportunistic as their counterparts in every other democracy, but the consequences of a rare middle class uprising are not addressed.The media’s self-absorption is shown by the outrage surrounding the shooting of a female journalist in the face with a rubber bullet. Then, the extreme reaction to that shooting is unintentionally parodied by the filmmakers through the inclusion of a spokesperson for the lower class who drolly observes that bullets the police use in the slums aren’t rubber.

That is not say that Junho is wholly without merit. The events carry an inherent drama that translates naturally onto a visual medium. The reaction of the press and public opinion – against the protests at first, then in support, finally split – holds a taste of the fickleness found in Coriolanus. The implosion and disintegration of a protest movement once it enjoys success are also fascinating. The problem is the absence of a point of view. There is no narration. There is no center. What remains is simply raw footage collected by camera crews and then repackaged into a generic good. This is cut-and-paste filmmaking.

The last segment of the movie attempts to tie the protests to the World Cup as some of the protesters shift their attention to the resources that have gone to building new stadiums rather than hospitals or schools. There is little doubt that FIFA and its relationship to the Brazilian government deserves closer examination. The decision of countries to host events like the World Cup or the Olympics while so many of their citizens do not have acess to basic goods and services also is worthy of a documentary. Junho has none of the investigative effort needed for such an exercise. It simply wants to be on record as an “I told you so,” if large-scale protests emerge once again during the Cup.

One and a half stars.

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