Black God, White Devil
Time Out saysRocha's first major film introduced most of the methods, themes and even characters that were developed five years later in his Antonio das Mortes. Set in the drought-plagued Brazilian Sertao in 1940, it explores the climate of superstition, physical and spiritual terrorism and fear that gripped the country: the central characters, Manuel and Rosa, move credulously from allegiance to allegiance until they finally learn that the land belongs not to god or the devil, but to the people themselves. The film's success here doubtless reflects the 'exoticism' of its style, somewhere between folk ballad and contemporary myth, since the references to Brazilian history and culture are pervasive and fairly opaque to the uninitiated. But Rocha's project is fundamentally political, and completely unambiguous: he faces up to the contradictions of his country in an effort to understand, to crush mystiques, and to improve.