Nowadays, not even communists will like so much praise of Moscow any more...
This movie is seriously flawed as a documentary, even as a semi-documentary: It presents a conventional, uncritical view of the lives of Olga Benario and Luis Carlos Prestes in line with the official party doctrine of the traditional communist party of the former Soviet Union. This is extremely astonishing in a movie turned in 2004, and what is more, turned with financial support from the "Film-Stiftung Nordrhein-Westfalen", a public not-for-profit cultural organization supporting lots of very good independent films, and what is yet more, turned for the "Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen", one of the three national television broadcasters of the Federal Republic of Germany (BRD) - which is definitely not in the least suspect of any sympathy for propaganda in line with orthodox Stalinism.
Before viewing the movie, i knew nothing about Olga Benario and Luis Carlos Prestes; both are definitely less well-known in the Western world than they ought to be, and i hoped to learn a bit about Brazilian history, too, so far knowing a bit about Mexiko, Venezuela and Chile, but not about Brazil. Already while viewing the film, i became rather suspicious because there are lots of elements you will also find in old-fashioned communist party propaganda: Heroic deeds praised as such without any critical assessment of their importance and context, display of revolutionary enthusiasm of masses aroused by isolated communiques issued by prominent revolutionary leaders, constant reference to the merits of central organization of revolutionary activities from Moscow without the slightest hint to any political problems this particular kind of strict centralism might have caused.
After viewing the movie, i briefly read up on the historical facts using the web, and i must say it is obvious even without knowing anything about Brazilian history that the story has been whitewashed to please official communist party doctrine. Probably, there are no major factual errors, but you learn absolutely nothing about the political development of Luis Carlos Prestes, who apparently was a very interesting personality, but also an ambivalent character, nothing about any internal conflicts of the Brazilian revolutionary and communist movements, nothing about any conflicts between party officials in the Soviet Union and activists in the Brazialian and German provinces; yet it is outright inconceivable that there were none, inconceivable that Olga Benario knew nothing, thought nothing, discussed nothing about the deadly conflicts agitating the Soviet Union
remember that the disaster of the revolt in Brazil in November 1935
happened less than one year before the start of the infamous Moscow trials in August 1936!
In one respect, the movie is indeed nice: I depicts an extremely courageous, very strong woman, acting brilliantly as a professional political activist and as a militant fighter. Even today, that's not the most common role a young woman can take up, and in the Thirties of the last century, this was definitely very extraordinary. Olga Benario is depicted with lots of sympathy, warmth of heart and tenderness. On the other hand, several men naturally follow her lead, but without being denounced as weaklings, even though they are allowed to show weaknesses. Thus, with respect to gender clichés, the movie does show the basic sensitivity it is sorely lacking with respect to Stalinism.
In literature, it is definitely possible to find far better portraits of militant women politicians, take for example the writings of Ingrid Strobl ("Sag nie, Du gehst den letzten Weg") or Inge Viett ("Nie war ich furchtloser"). In cinematography, off the top of my head, i could name none. Yet, i can't really recommend the movie.
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