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Sunday, January 28, 2007

Some background on 'Manda Bala,' Sundance Documentary Grand Prize Winner

I was knocked out by 'Manda Bala' last night, the doc that won the 2007 Grand Jury Prize here at Sundance. It's a stylish, energetic, and surprising exploration of crime and political corruption in Brazil. Director Jason Kohn deftly interweaves the stories of kidnap victims, a plastic surgeon, anti-kidnapping detectives, a frog farmer, and a politician who mysteriously gets wealthier the longer he serves in office. There are moments where I felt my jaw dropping open, and other moments where I was watching through my fingers. Kohn is a protege of Errol Morris, but he's far from an imitator: I actually found the cinematography better than the last few of Morris' movies I've seen, and the pacing is quick enough to keep a restless teenager riveted.

There isn't much info about the movie online, and even fewer reviews, but here are a few quick links:

- Jason Kohn interview with The Reeler. Kohn says, "I've been stupid lucky with this film. Honestly, it's been a very long process, it's been five years; I nailed all the indie filmmaking clichés except for extraordinary credit card debt. But all of the fighting and all of the years... I mean, my investor tried to fire me. All of that typical stuff that goes into making a very, very hard movie over a long period of time."

- Filmmaker Magazine review. Jason Geurrasio writes, "this doc — with a brisk running time of 85 minutes — never lets you catch your breath as it weaves through numerous stories that are sometimes humorous but often excruciating to watch."

- Official site

- Indiewire interview with Jason Kohn. Kohn says, "I really thought of "Manda Bala" as a non-fiction 'RoboCop' depicting a very real broken and violent society."

- CNN writes a bit about the movie and Kohn, listing 'Manda Bala' as one of the five best movies at Sundance.

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