Todos os Mortos [All the Dead Ones] (2020)

Todos os Mortos
Director: Marco Dutra, Caetano Gotardo
Writer: Marco Dutra, Caetano Gotardo
Cast: Mawusi Tulani, Clarissa Kiste, Carolina Bianchi, Thaia Perez, Agyei Augusto, Leonor Silveira, Alaíde Costa, Rogério Brito, Thomas Aquino
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 31.10.2020

Content Note: ableism/saneism, [critical treatment of] racism and colonialism

It’s 1899 and slavery has just been abolished in Brazil. The Soares family used to own slaves and ran a big plantation, which the family father is still trying to keep running. Meanwhile mother Isabel (Thaia Perez) lives with her daughter Ana (Carolina Bianchi) in their town house, while her other daughter Maria (Clarissa Kiste) became a nun. When Isabel becomes ill, Ana is convinced that only Iná (Mawusi Tulani) could help – Iná who used to be enslaved by them. But whether Iná – who was dismissed for practicising her religion – wants to help is another question.

Todos os Mortos gets some things very right, and others not at all. Overall the good outweighs the bad, I’d say. I liked it, even though it didn’t blow me away.

The film poster showing a collage of the main characters of the film.

Todos os Mortos reminded me of Los que vuelven in many ways, tackling very similar topics, albeit in a very different context. I liked that it got even more explicit about slavery compared to Los que vuelven, and about the many ways the formerly enslaved people were still really screwed in the supposedly slavery-free society. (The film cleverly incorporates some modern background to hint at the fact that this is far from over even today.)

This becomes especially obvious in the story of Iná and her family, and the way they have to navigate this world to find a space where they can belong and find a home. I wouldn’t have minded if the film had been all about them, in fact, and less about the white Soares family.

Isabel (Thaia Perez) sitting behind João (Agyei Augusto) as Iná (Mawusi Tulani) holds his hands.

Especially since it is with Ana’s characterization that most of the film’s problems arise. She is obviously mentally ill and we can all assume that she wouldn’t get the right treatment in 1899. But still, the way she becomes violent in the film’s finale just feeds into the stereotype of the dangerous mentally ill people and really didn’t work for me. It was completely ableist.

Generally, the ending was a weaker point of the film. I thought it was pretty pessimistic, at first at least – it does get softened a little at the very end. But I would have liked a bit more optimism. There was just a bitter taste in my mouth afterwards, a feeling of nihilism that I didn’t think was what the film needed. Still, the film had me for most of its runtime and I found it absolutely interesting enough to enjoy it.

Ana (Carolina Bianchi) talking to Iná (Mawusi Tulani).

Summarizing: interesting and worth seeing.

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