To Nov. 10. Daniels Spectrum.
Besouro is set a long way from Dundas Street East—Brazil in the early 20th-century—but it’s still a welcome addition as the closing-night selection at this year’s Regent Park Film Festival (Nov. 10, 7:30 p.m.). Directed by veteran commercial maker João Daniel Tikhomiroff, it’s a supple and energetic entry into the familiar young-warrior-comes-into-his-own genre. The titular hero is an African-born teenager (Ailton Carmo) pondering his place in a different country. After some familiar setbacks (including the death of his beloved master), he starts battling Brazil’s racist, oppressive National Guard goons one dropkick at a time. Besouro’s evolution into a folk hero includes accessing his primal senses (visualized in surreal sequences where he adopts the skittering, mobile perspectives of frogs and birds) and heightening his mastery of the indigenous Afro-Brazilian martial art, capoeira. The Toronto-based collective Grupo Axé Capoeira will perform a live-action demonstration after the screening.
Besouro is an escapist fantasy, but it’s also a portrait of a tightly knit and often embattled community. This aligns it with the festival’s other similarly themed selections, which orbit around issues relevant to Regent Park residents. The biggest ticket item is probably Steve James’ excellent 2011 documentary, The Interrupters (Nov. 9, 6:30 p.m.), a sprawling portrait of a Chicago-based anti-violence initiative. It’s ably complemented by a local production: Hugh Gibson’s 30-minute documentary, Harm Reduction (Nov. 10, 2:30 p.m.), which profiles the staff and clientele of the Regent Park Community Health Centre—more specifically, the “harm reduction” program that offers safe-injection instruction and educational materials.
It has a memorable cast of characters, including addiction counsellors who talk freely about their own substance abuse, and a long-time user who performs a lacerating self-penned song entitled “The Stairs” (named for a well-known area addict hangout). Shot in an intimate but straightforward style that leaves its subjects plenty of room to speak for themselves—which they do eloquently and at times even more honestly than one might expect—Gibson’s film is moving without being sentimental. (The same is true of his 20-minute companion film, Safer Stroll, also focused on the RPCHC.) Another homegrown highlight of the shorts program is Leslie Supnet’s animated reverie, Gains and Losses, which uses stark, hand-drawn imagery to probe the life of a divided mind—its various visual gags come laced with a bracing melancholy