Director: Carlos Diegues.
Starring: Jonas Bloch (Samuel), Jorge Coutinho (Sale), Maurício do Valle (Dominingos Jorge Velho), Daniel Filho (Carrilho), Vera Fischer (Ana de Ferro), Zezé Motta (Dandara), Jono Nogueira (Rufino), Grande Otelo (Baba), Antonio Pitanga (Acaiuba), Antônio PompLo (Zumbi), Jofre Soares (Caninde), Tony Tornado (Ganga Zumba).
illegal towns composed of renegade slaves and others at the bottom that whites just have to destroy
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire film.
"The first Europeans to arrive in Brazil in 1500, the Portuguese brought slaves from Africa to work the sugar plantations, the colony's greatest wealth. Absolute masters of their slaves, they subjected them to forced labor and inflicted often fatal tortures. Some slaves escaped and hid in country areas, forming free communities called Quilombos. The most famous of these was the 'Quilombo of Palmares' founded at the end of the 16th century in northeast Brazil."
1650. A sugar mill, Pernambuco, during the Luso-Dutch War. A black slave is being tortured by putting his hands and neck inside a stock and tightening the stock more and more. The mistress of the house says that the stocks can be tightened until blood comes out of the slave's mouth without threatening his life. A female black slave has tears running down her eyes at the sight. The little son of the mistress is enjoying abusing his dwarf slave. The problem is that the slave being tortured does die and that makes the mistress mad. She shouts: "He couldn't do that to me!" A third slave calls out for Dona Olympia and tells her that a Dutch officer has arrived and the house has to be cleaned up. She finds it hard to believe that a Dutchman is in Santa Rita and is coming to her house.
The pregnant female black slave walks through the sugar cane calling out: "Andre!"
One of the slaves kills a black foreman. A friend of his says: "You're crazy!" The murderer says that the foreman was killing Aroroba. The friend says since the murderer is so new to slavery in Brazil, he doesn't realize how much pain he is going to have to endure for what he did. Another black slave comes running in shouting that somebody is coming! A white group is moving more slave prisoners to be dealt with by the Governor. The master of the plantation tells female slave Dandara to come over and give him some of the liquor that she carries.
The son of the master of the plantation shouts to his dad that there should be some blacks here working, but he doesn't see any. All of a sudden the black slaves attack the column from both sides of the sugar cane fields. The murderer comes to the front of the column and knocks down the son with his fists. The father calls Dandara to bring his sword to him. Dandara comes with the sword but she stabs the master with it in the mid-section. The weapons of the dead whites are picked up.
An old slave says they better get going quick, because the news will spread fast. Various slaves have different ideas about where they should go. One fellow says he came from Palmares and will go back there. If anyone wants to join him, they are welcome. But what's in Palmares? Freedom. It's where blacks go who don't want to be slaves any more. Aroroba says he is going back to Africa. Some of the men now come over to his side.
The dwarf slave comes out chasing his little master and kicking him in the pants. Aroroba stops the kicking. Now the dwarf calls out for Gongoba, who is the pregnant black slave. She comes out of the sugar cane field and into the opening. The slaves march off in two different directions. Gongoba will go to Palmarers, as will the murderer.
A white farmer is telling his children the Biblical story of Moses and the parting of the waters. He hears some noise in the bushes and sends his children inside the house. He walks toward the forest, holds his hands up and says: "I'm unarmed." The older man comes out into the open saying that they need help. The rest of the people now come out of the forest. They say they need food, salt and shelter. The farmer says he will share his food and salt with them.
The big man offers the farmer a rifle and gun powder for the food. Another slave says that the leader of Palmares, Acotirene, may not like this. So the big man says they will take the farmer and his family to Palmares.
Gongoba is about to deliver a baby. (Some nudity.) The men clap their thighs and hands for her. The mother says it's a boy. The white man joins in pn the clapping. A black man named Terencio looks to see what is going on. The slave from Palmares says this means that Acotirene has sent for them.
When they reach Palmares an old man (Acotirene) asks why have they brought a foreigner (the white guy) to Palmares? The big fellow with the white fellow says that the farming white farmers may be able to help Palmares, as long as Palmares helps the white farmers. The big man says that after the war is over, the whites will try to destroy Palmares. Therefore, they must use everyone they can get to help strengthen the defenses of Palmares, so the whites will want to negotiate with them rather than attack them. Palmares can grow much larger and then they won't even have to negotiate with the whites. Acotirene says beware of the smile of the enemy.
Acotirene says that the big man will now be the chosen one -- the Ganga Zumba. The big man, Abiola, says he doesn't want to be Ganga Zumba. Acotirene just says: "Ganga Zumba." It looks like Abiola will be the Ganga Zumba. Acotirene says it's time for her to go back into the forest. But she has appointed a new Ganga Zumba, who will lead the people of Palmares. The men and women appeal to Acotirene not to leave. Abiola tells Acotirene to listen to her people, but when he turns his head to look at her, she is gone.
Five years later. The settlement at Palmares is going strong. Some white men, just off the battlefields against the Dutch, spot the many blacks around the settlement and figure that they can take one of them and sell it to a plantation owner. The white men come out of the forest with their guns drawn. They start catching children to take away with them, but there are so many children there that they are able to subdue the men. The leader is the only bandit still standing and he goes and grabs a little boy, the son of Gongoba. The mother stands in the path of the kidnapper and he shoots Gongoba.
In a town the kidnapper negotiates with the priest on the price for the boy. An army officer comes in and tells the priest that the Governor of Pernambuco sent him and his men to take Palmares. He says he wants the priest to tell the men that the army needs them. Any crimes will be forgiven. Vagrants can also join the army. The kidnapper decides to go with the troops, so he tells the priest that he will collect his money for the boy when he returns.
In the mountains the guide for the army brings them to a place of great fruits, such as pineapple and mango. As the men start taking the fruits they are grabbed by slaves up in trees and underneath the ground. The kidnapper runs when the real attack begins, but he trips a rope that sends an arrow into his chest. He dies. The troops are surrounded by the natives and they are killed.
Fifteen years later. Some of the blacks are living in what once was a white town. The town is besieged by the plague.
Palmares is having a big party. Some indigenous people come by and say they want to see Ganga Zumba. Ganga Zumba asks where the tribe is going? The chief says that they are heading to the other side of the mountain to find the Land-without-Evil.
A black man steals a food basket and runs out into the forest. There he hears white men coming. It's a group of two white men with two black males slaves. The thieve hides by climbing up into a large breadfruit tree. One of the slaves sees the man in the tree, but, of course, he doesn't say anything. Later the black man from Palmares climbs up to the top of a large mountain.
In Palmares there is another procession complete with music and dancing. Ganga Zumba is making out with a young woman. Suddenly Gang Zumba sees the black man spread eagle and naked on top of the mountain cliff. The young lady sees him now too. She goes over to ask who is he? He just says he wants to talk with Ganga Zumba. Ganga knows the fellow. He's Acaiuba. Ganga is very glad that Acaiuba came back to Palmeres.
The celebrations continue. The people also go to an indoor market place where there is a plentitude of things to eat. The men play various types of games.
A white Captain Fernao Carrilho comes to Palmares to speak to Ganga Zumba. One of his men says that the Captain could have taken all of Palmares, but he prefers peace to war. Ganga shows up and the Captain tells him: "The mill owners pay me to wage war on Palmares." What the Captain wants is for Palmares to pay him not to attack the black settlement. All Ganga Zumba wants from the Captain is a few weapons and ammunition.
A few of the soldiers and a white woman named Ana want to stay in Palmeres. One of the black soldiers says that Ana is his. The Captain says that the woman should serve almost anyone as the Dutch used her to entertain their troops. Now the Captain excuses himself to say that his soldiers must start burning different areas to fool the mill owners down in the valley into thinking that there is an actual war going on. Ganga Zumba says he will take something else from the Captain: Ana.
When the Captain and his soldiers get back to the valley, the mill owners are there waiting for them. The Captain tells them that they have snuffed out all subversion in Palmares. One of the mill owners, however, asks the Captain where are all his prisoners? That question stumps the Captain. Now the mill owner says they are going up in the hills to see the ruins of Palmares.
When the soldiers arrive at the outskirts of Palmeres, they run into three blacks. The Captain shoots the black closet to him right in the forehead. The other two blacks take off running. The soldiers chase after the two people. The suspicious mill owner now tells the Captain that the man he just killed was greeting the Captain in a very familiar way. The Captain and his men know these ex-slaves. The Captain just laughs at this until the mill owner tells the Captain that he is under arrest.
There is a funeral ceremony at Palmares for the dead black man. The man, Acaiuba, who was with the dead man when he was shot by the whites, now wants to take vengeance on the whites. Quite a few of the settlement residents want to go with the man. The man is now named Zumbi, the warrior chief. He and his soldiers take vengeance on the whites. The black soldier who said that Ana belonged to him is killed.
Zumbie talks with the priest who says that the only thing Zumbi is spreading is fear in the valley. Sugar cane fields are burned. And now Zumbi and the woman Dandara are thinking about taking the town of Recife, a major port on the Atlantic Ocean and the capital of the state of Pernambuco. Zumbi thinks about it some more and says that if they took Recife, they themselves would soon be the owners of their own slaves. He turns away from Recife. When he and Dandara return to Palmares, Ganga Zumba tells them that the King of Portugal wants him to go to Recife to talk peace. Ganga Zumba decides to go to Recife to see what they want.
In Recife Ana reads out the agreement between the Governor of Pernambuco and Ganga Zumba. It talks of moving the settlement of Palmarers up north and onto the valley. The people will be considered free men. But Palmares cannot take in any runaway slaves. These must be returned to their rightful owners. Ana advises Ganga Zumba not to accept the peace agreement.
The free people have a big discussion about the peace treaty. One woman says they must stay up in the mountains where they have some natural defenses available to them. Ganga Zumba says that if they decide to stay in Palmares, then the war with the whites will never end. And one day Palmares will be wiped out by the whites. Another black woman says that Palmares still stands! Zumbi now speaks up. He says: "How can we be friends with the whites if their happiness depends on our enslvaement?" To decide the matter a vote is taken of the village leaders one by one. The decision is made to stay in Palmares.
Ganga Zumba gave his word to the Governor to move. So he and some others will move up north in the valley. Zumbi is now the leader at Palmares. Actually, a lot of followers go with Ganga Zumba to the new lands. When they get there, however, white soldiers await them. A spokesman rides up to the blacks and tells Ganga Zumba that he better convince Zumbi to come north or the peace agreement will not stand.
The Captain now closes the valley. Ganga Zumba ays his people and he must leave the area. But to do this they must have Zumbi come north with them. And that is not going to be easy. Ganga Zumba tells Ana that tomorrow evening he is going to need her help.
The Captain comes back to speak with Ganga Zumba. The Captain tells Ganga that his name is Andre Tourinho, the youngest of the children of the plantation owner from Santa Rita. So, Ganga tells Namba to go get the people together. Ganga drinks poisoned wine. Ana rushes out to tell the people that the Captain was the one who poisoned the wine. The Captain becomes afraid and drops his sword. Ana picks it up and stabs the Captain in the mid-section.
Ganga tells the leader Sale to take the people back to Palmares for the white man is not their friend. Ana comes to Zale and tells him to hurry because they must break out of the encirclement by the whites. Zale tells her that Ganga Zumba actually poisoned himself. "The people of Palmares are no longer divided." The sorrowful people now head back into the mountains to go back to Palmares
Eleven years later. Zumbi is still the leader of Palmares.
Domingos Jorge Velho and his group of four arrives from Sao Paulo, Brazil. He will help destroy Palmares. He now waits for the promised Portuguese army. The Portuguese aim to wipe out Palmares at any cost.
The white man who came with Ganga Zumba to Palmares now tells the blacks about this fellow Domingos and the expected Portuguese army. He also tells the blacks that it is too dangerous for him to come to Palmares again because the King says that any white man negotiating with Palmares will be arrested and sent to Lisbon, Portugal. He adds that he is heading south and intends to just disappear. Zumbi asks that the white man do them just one more favor. Tell the whites that the blacks are going to stay and wait at Palmares for the arrival of the Portuguese army.
Zumbi now gives the order that everyone in the villages must come into Palmares. And everyone is going to be a warrior. He tells Teodoro to take his best warriors to hide at Boqueirao de Serra. When the whites attack Palmares Teodoro and his men will attack the rear of the whites formations. Zumbi is a bit worried that a man named Katambo may stir up trouble among the people. He will have to think about arresting this man.
January 1694. The Portuguese army arrives at the first village to find it deserted. Zumbi marches his army toward the whites. Zumbi finds the Portuguese army arrayed in a long line just before the start of the forest. The Portuguese fire their six cannons at the village huts, but the cannonballs fall short. So Domingos moves the army and the cannon up a bit. As they advance to different spots where the cannon are the ground just gives way under the men and the cannons. Zumbi had these traps set for the Portuguese army. Now the black soldiers show themselves. A priest says that somebody told Zumbi about the cannon and he was prepared for them. They will fight Zumbi another day.
There's another celebration. Meanwhile, Domingos has the captured black slaves tied to the mouths of the cannons. Domingos yells for Zumbi to look as the cannon are lit and the bodies blown apart.
Zumbu has a nightmare and can't sleep. He goes outside to check around. He sees a thick mist around Palmares and thinks this will be to their advantage. But a little later he also realizes that the mist could help Domingos as well. He goes closer and listens intently. It sounds to him as if the whites are building something. He suspects that they are building a fort from which they can fire their cannon and the cannon balls will hit their buildings. So he gives the order to wake the people up. He sends a boy to run to tell Teodoro to attack. He adds that they will come out of the town and attack from the front.
Domingos gets the cannon ready to be fired. The mist is rising. Meanwhile, the residents are told to attack before the cannon can be used. But as they pour out from Palmares, the cannons open up on them. The Portuguese blow a big hole in the side of the wall around Palmares and the soldiers pour into the settlement. And now the fighting is intense. Orders are given to kill all the blacks, because none of them will make good slaves now anyway. Zumbi kills a number of soldiers. Then he sees an illusion of Ganga Zumba. Zumbi is hit by shrapnel from a cannon ball.
Dandara and her guard are cornered at the mountain cliff. Dandara jumps to her death followed by the guard who jumps after her. Only the Portuguese walk around the area. The blacks are all dead.
Zumbi is in the forest, still alive. The boy with him, Camuanga, goes up a hill to find some fresh fruits. Teodoro arrives, half dead. He asks Zumbi to forgive him because the Portuguese tortured him. Suddenly, a great many men are seen in the foliage with their guns pointed at them. Teodore yells for Zumbi to run. He is shot in the back for this. Now Zumbi is completely surrounded. Domingos shoots him first and then the others shoot Zumbi.
"Camuanga became leader of the Palmares resistance until 1704, when he was killed in battle with the Portuguese. Other warriors took his place. The Colonial forces never managed to exterminate Palmares completely. Resistance in the area was last heard of in 1797, more than a century after the death of Zumbi."
I liked the concept of the film with it anti-slavery message. But one thing irked me and it kept happening over and over again. The people of the settlement of Palmares are made to look like Hippies. They constantly have celebrations and observances. And life is easy for the people as if they were in some type of paradise. I'm sure the ex-slaves were glad to be free for awhile, but I don't think they were constantly singing and dancing to the music. Some of the celebrations almost seemed surreal to me. I knew the film was not going to have a happy ending and thought it silly for the people to be celebrating all the time. Tony Tornado (as Ganga Zumba) was good in his role. In the end the whites had to wipe out the Quilombos or these settlements would have continued to grow stronger and more numerous.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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