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Film ‘Mormaço’ Interweaves Fiction and Reality to Retell Story of Vila Autódromo Evictions [REVIEW]

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On May 8, the film Mormaço premiered at the Net Rio Theater in Botafogo, in Rio de Janeiro’s South Zone. Directed by Marina Meliande with performances by Marina Provenzzano, Sandra Maria Teixeira, and Pedro Gracindo and a screenplay by Felipe Bragança and Marina Meliande, the full-feature film captures the eviction process in Vila Autódromo in the context of the pre-Olympic period in Rio. Mixing fiction and reality, Meliande transports viewers to a complex moment in Rio’s recent history.

The title of the work, Mormaço, or “haze” in English, evokes the idea of hot, stifling, and suffocating weather. The word “mormaço” is popularly used to describe uncomfortable temperatures. In this sense, the title is a metaphor for the changes and urban reforms brought about by the Olympics, carried out both physically and symbolically, that suffocated many of Rio’s citizens. The film unfolds within this perspective through the viewpoint of the main character Ana, a public defender in Rio, who, in addition to losing her apartment due to the construction of a luxury hotel in Rio’s South Zone, works alongside residents of Vila Autódromo to fight evictions and defend the their right to remain in their homes.

Vila Autódromo was established as a fishing community in the West Zone in the 1960s. It continued to grow, eventually becoming home to some 583 families and providing them with a place of peace and calm despite difficulties. Vila Autódromo was one of the most emblematic victims of the urban development project carried out by the City of Rio during the construction of sporting facilities like the Olympic Park on the grounds of the city’s old racetrack. The evicted families found themselves victims of intense pressure from City officials, who offered resettlement and compensation to the residents. As the 2016 Olympics drew closer, pressure increased, as did resistance from families who wanted to stay in the community. As residents’ willingness to stay intensified, so did the government’s response, prompting protests across the city, clashes between demonstrators and government officials, and acts of police brutality.

Mormaço makes use of actual footage of these events. The images reflect an archetypal context of war, with moments of prolonged desolation illustrating the drama experienced by the community’s remaining families. By the end of the eviction process, Vila Autódromo’s houses look as though they have been bombed. In this context, Ana begins to break out with a mysterious skin disease. As time goes on, the situation gets worse for the film’s protagonist, for Vila residents, and for the city as a whole. In this sense, Ana’s body becomes a catalyst for the flow of energy and conflict that unfolds throughout the plot.

Another central character in the film is Domingas, played by Sandra Maria de Souza, a real-life resident of Vila Autódromo, whose family was among the twenty who were able to stay in their community as the result of their resistance effort. In addition to being a resident of Vila Autódromo and an activist, Souza is also a trained actress. She has become a symbol of resistance and an exemplar of the anti-eviction struggle in Rio de Janeiro. Thus, her role in Mormaço is marked by direct confrontation with those who unjustly impose their power upon her and her fellow residents in their fight against eviction.

By combining advocacy and fiction, Mormaço opens the door to an innovative way of reflecting on social policies implemented by the government and how these policies affect citizens. The film also delves into the question of land and women’s bodies as spaces of indiscriminate and unconscious exploitation: in Mormaço, femininity and land are re-signified and transformed to respond to the frenetic pursuit of profit, characteristic of monetized societies. Meliande effectively relays these messages through poetry and fantasy.

The film gives important visibility to this issue, reviving discussions on Rio’s Olympic legacy through the history of Vila Autódromo’s forced dismantling. The film celebrates the motto of the Evictions Museum—created by the resistance movement and situated in Vila Autódromo as a space to preserve the history that took place there—”Memory Cannot Be Evicted.”

See below for theaters screening Mormaço and showtimes in several states in Brazil:

Brasília – Federal District

Cine Brasília – 4pm, 6pm (except Mon. and Tues.)
Cine Cultura Liberty Mall – 4:30pm, 6:30pm

João Pessoa – Paraíba

Cine Banguê – Sun. 4pm | Wed. 7pm

Palmas – Tocantins

Cine Cultura Palmas – Sat. 8pm

São Luís – Maranhão

Cine Lume – 8pm | Sat. and Sun. 3:20pm, 8pm

Fortaleza – Ceará

Cinema Do Dragão (Fundação) – 2pm (except Thurs. and Mon.) | Thurs. 4pm

Niterói – Rio de Janeiro

Reserva Cultural RJ – 2pm

Porto Alegre – Rio Grande do Sul

Cine Bancários – 5pm

Recife – Pernambuco

Derby – Cinema Da Fundação – Sun. 3:55pm | Tues. 6:05pm
São Luiz – Thurs. 3:50pm | Fri. and Wed. 5:40pm

Rio de Janeiro – Rio de Janeiro

Cine Star Laura Alvim – 8:15pm
Estação Net Botafogo – 5:20pm

São Paulo – São Paulo

Espaço Itaú Cinema (Frei Caneca) – 10:00pm
Reserva Cultural SP – 1pm (except Mon.)