Brazil, 1899. Slavery has been abolished for 11 years. The women of the Soares family find their old plantation lifestyle out of reach, and their former slaves are struggling to find a place in the new economy. All the Dead Ones (Todos os Mortos) is firmly rooted in its cultural moment, but its picture of a society in flux feels timely.

Writer-director duo Caetano Gotardo and Marco Dutra expertly establish sympathy for everyone on screen while leaning into the petty injustices and subconscious classism that defined Brazil’s upper crust well after slavery was abolished. Isabel Soares (Thaia Perez) and her daughters Maria (Clarissa Kiste) and Ana (Carolina Bianchi) – one a young nun, the other a reclusive pianist – seem like a loving family until truly dehumanising opinions flow forth. The lack of awareness conveyed in these line deliveries seems unbelievable until the intense, heretofore unencumbered privilege on which these ladies have built their lives is reckoned with. Ana evokes the assuredness and amorality of Scarlett O’Hara, if the latter’s determination for a better future was replaced by seductive visions of her rosy past.

Another dichotomy is captured in the choices of the Soares’ former slave Iná (Mawusi Tulani), who left the plantation with her son João (Agyei Augusto) when freedom was declared. João’s respect for his mother’s independent life and traditions is contrasted against his fascination with the Soares’ lifestyle, making him a well-placed audience surrogate. It is a testament to the writing and performances that these opposing sympathies are so delicately managed.

All the Dead Ones defies plot and genre expectations to its final moments, elevating a socially astute and perfectly-acted drama to a quasi-allegorical treatise. The masterful conclusion questions the distance of the past, celebrating Brazil’s new society and serving as a stern reminder against complacency.

RATING: 5/5


INFORMATION

CAST: Mawusi Tulani, Clarissa Kiste, Carolina Bianchi, Thaia Perez, Agyei Augusto

DIRECTORS: Caetano Gotardo, Marco Dutra

WRITERS: Caetano Gotardo, Marco Dutra

SYNOPSIS: In 1899 Brazil, slavery has been abolished and two families are still figuring out where they fit in to the new social order.

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