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HIstorical context: between the 1950s and 1980s, with industrialization, millions of Brazilians migrated from the impoverished, rural Northeast, to the big cities in the Southeast, specially Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. They found diverse blue collar and menial jobs, suffered discrimination, but ultimately settled for a better life in the cities, even though they missed their roots, small town life, and the family values of their regions of origin.
The theme of the contrast between a dehumanisizing life in the big cities devoid of the humanity and the "authentiticy" of life in the countryside goes back to the ancient times, but became more common with the industrial revolution. After all, it is not only the city life that homogenizes people, but also the machine-like jobs they perform. The filmmaker here took this perennial motif and used a clever title, that became semi-proverbial in Brazil "The Man Who Became Juice". It refers simply to migrants from the poor, rural, Brazilian northeast, who come to Sao Paulo searching for a better living, and end up in the "dehumanizing" works in factories or construction. As the protagonist says, it is like an orange becoming orange juice.
The fact that the motif is not so original does not mean it is not cleverly treated. We expect the protagonist to be the one who "becomes juice", but his stubborn personality saves him from his fate. It is his highly obedient look-alike (the striking similarity is never explained) that suffers this fate. In the beginning, the protagonist's doppelganger is portrayed as evil, but in the end he becomes a tragic figure, and the protagonist, who is a skilled writer of "cordel" (narrative poems typical of the Brazilian Norheast) becomes his chronicler. It is fitting - and in my opinion intentional - that the "double" is named Severino, while the protagonist has a less usual name. As anyone in Brazil will tell you, Severino is the name of choice for someone who stands for all the Northeasterners.
Intentionally or not, the movie shows that not all is hopeless. There is an alternative to "becoming juice" or being crushed by the system. The protagonist is defiant and clever, and through a lot of struggles he walks the fine line between being a rebel who tells his employers where to shove their jobs and being an outright criminal. In the end he toes the line and is able to live from his art, which is what he intended. It is implied that this would be impossible in his famished home state.
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