Dir/scr: Hilton Lacerda. Brazil. 2013. 110mins


A fresh and appealing look into the impact of Brazil’s military regime in the 1970s as seen through the tentative relationship between an 18 year-old soldier and a cultural agitator who runs an anarchist cabaret, the award-winning Tattoo (Tatuagem) is insightful and entertaining without ever being overly provocative.

The conflicts and agitations between a hippy generation on the margins and young soldiers following orders is nicely told.

An award-winner at this year’s Rio International Film Festival – where young Jesuita Barbosa took the best actor award for his performance as the soldier – Tattoo may well strike a chord in certain Latin territories as well as appealing to LBGTF festivals.

Hippy-ish anarchist cabarets were a popular place for gleeful cultural agitation against the military regime, but as criticism of the military gets more and more forthright so soldiers are brought in to suppress dissidents. The film dwells on the two sides of the equation – mild-mannered Fininha (Barbosa) is at odds with fellow soldiers because of his lack of interest in pursuing women, while older Clecio (Irandhir Santos) – who has a son Tuca from a relationship with Deusa (Sylvia Prado) – seeks to keep his cabaret on track, and especially try and reign in the druggie-enthusiasms of ebullient fellow performer Paulete (Rodrigo Garcia).

The contrast is most evident in a balancing pair of sequences of the soldiers singing in cadence as they run alongside the camp cabaret performing largely naked.

When Fininha offers to deliver a letter from his girlfriend Jandira to her brother Paulete he is drawn into the free-spirited world of the cabaret, and finds himself sexually attracted to Clecio, and the pair start to spend more and more time together. Things come to a head, though, as the troupe – called The Star-Spangled Floor – find their latest performance banned by the censor. They go ahead in any case, only to find soldiers sent to brutally break-up proceedings.

The conflicts and agitations between a hippy generation on the margins and young soldiers following orders is nicely told, with Barbosa especially good as the young soldier drawn into an unexpected and vibrant world.  The cabaret shows themselves are made up of rather pretentious utterings mixed in with camp extravagances and a whole lot of nakedness, but certainly reflect an era when Brazil’s free-spirited nature came up against the rigid brutality of a tough regime.

Production company/contact: Rec Produtores Associados, www.recprodutores.com.br

Producer: Joao Viera Jr

Cinematography: Ivo Lopes Araujo

Editor: Mair Tavares

Music: DJ Dolores

Main cast: Irandhir Santos, Jesuita Barbosa, Rodrigo Garcia, Silvio Restiffe, Sylvia Prado