Rio: BOPE Secretly Seeks to Censor “The Trooper Elite”
A still from Elite da Tropa, pirate version. Subtitled hastily by NMM(-TV)SNB(B)CNN(P)BS.

“The film shows that no one is innocent in the wide avenues or in the narrow, winding alleyways of Rio de Janeiro. They live with war, extreme violence and corruption, but at the same time exhibit determination, grit and courage.” —Judge Flávia de Almeida Viveiros de Castro, Rio de Janeiro

In the lawsuit, the police asked that the film be evaluated by them before its premiere and that its commercial release, distribution and exhibition be suspended.

BOPE’s gonna getcha
BOPE’s gonna getcha
Hey, man in black?
What is your mission?
I go to the favela
And leave corpses on the ground.
– A current underground funk carioca hit

The Correio Forense legal news service (Brazil) reports: a forthcoming film version of Elite da Tropa — I tend to translate the title as “The Trooper Elite” — a semiautobiographical novel by a former BOPE captain and his ghostwriters, is the subject of a lawsuit by his old SWAT-style police unit in Rio de Janeiro.

Their attempt to suspend distribution and exhibition of the film failed.

A juíza da 1ª Vara Cível do Rio, Flávia de Almeida Viveiros de Castro, indeferiu ontem (dia 12 de setembro) pedidos liminares de integrantes do Batalhão de Operações Policiais (Bope) para impedir a exibição do filme “Tropa de Elite”. O grupo entrou com ação cautelar contra a Zazen Produções e a distribuidora Paramount Pictures do Brasil, alegando que a obra, com estréia prevista para o mês de outubro, ataca a corporação e viola a honra, dignidade e até mesmo a integridade física dos policiais.

A judge of the First Civil Bar in Rio de Janeiro turned down a request for an injunction by members of the Special Operations Battalion (BOPE), which sought to prevent the exhibition of the film “The Trooper Elite.” The group sued Zazen Productions and Paramount Pictures Brazil, alleging that the work, whose debut is scheduled for October, attacks the police force and offends the honor, dignity and even the physical integrity of police troopers.

How on earth does a specific police unit even have standing to sue over a fictionalized depiction of its history and activities? Imagine specific New York City precincts suing to prevent the exhibition of films like Serpico or Fort Apache, The Bronx. Spike Lee’s Inside Man is not exactly a love letter to the NYPD, either, though it treats its virtues and vices seriously and responsibly, I thought.

Após assistir ao filme, cuja cópia vendida por camelôs foi anexada ao processo pelos autores, a juíza concluiu que não há ataques às instituições e que as críticas são ao sistema. Segundo ela, não é possível identificar concretamente se o sistema seria o Bope, a Polícia Militar, a universidade, a sociedade, o jogo do bicho, o tráfico ou políticos.

After viewing the film, a copy of which is already being sold by street vendors and was attached to the case file, the judge concluded that there are no attacks on institutions and that the criticisms are criticisms of the system. According to her, it is not possible to identify the system specifically with BOPE, the military police, the university, society, the numbers rackets, the drug traffic or politicians.

“A narrativa do filme demonstra que ninguém é inocente nas largas avenidas ou nas vielas e becos da cidade do Rio de Janeiro. Vive-se em estado de guerra, de violência extrema e de corrupção, mas também de determinação, garra e coragem. Não existem ataques às instituições. As críticas feitas (o discurso do personagem principal várias vezes o refere) são ao sistema. E não há conceito mais aberto, mais indeterminado do que este”, afirmou a juíza.

“The film shows that no one is innocent in the wide avenues or in the narrow, winding alleyways of Rio de Janeiro. They live in a state of war, of extreme violence and corruption, but at the same time [exhibit] determination, grit and courage. There are no attacks on institutions. The criticisms it makes (the speeches of the principal character refers to it several times) are of the system. There is no concept more wide-ranging, more indeterminate than that,” the judge said.

No processo, os policiais pediram que o filme fosse avaliado por eles antes da estréia e que fosse suspensa sua comercialização, veiculação e exibição. Eles requereram também segredo de justiça. Para a juíza, no entanto, não há nada no filme que precise ficar em segredo.

In the lawsuit, the police asked that the film be evaluated by them before its premiere and that its commercial release, distribution and exhibition be suspended. The also demanded that the case be sealed. In the judge’s view, however, there is nothing in the film that requires confidentiality.

“O filme traduz o cotidiano de boa parte dos cariocas. Fala de vida, morte, tráfico, corrupção, nobreza, tristeza, arrependimento, fraqueza. Nada que precise ficar em segredo de justiça, nada que necessite ser censurado ou previamente examinado pela Justiça”, assegurou. Ela ressaltou que a medida liminar é “inócua”, uma vez que cópias não autorizadas do filme já se encontram sendo vendidas pelos camelôs, como é de conhecimento do público e, inclusive, alardeado pelos próprios autores do processo.

“The film translates to the screen the daily life of a good number of Rio de Janeiro’s people. It tells of life, death, trafficking, corruption, nobility, sadness, repentance, weakness. Nothing that might require the case to be sealed, nothing that requires it to be censored or subject to prior judicial examination,” she said. She emphasized that an injunction would be “useless,” since unauthorized copies are already being sold by street vendors, as the public well knows and as the plaintiffs themselves made a point of emphasizing.

I would imagine that the depiction of police corruption, which is said to go way beyond what you see in Meirelles’ City of God — I want to read this book, but just try to find a copy — was also part of the case.

Did BOPE’s suit try to challenge the film on factual grounds? Asserting that its troopers never did any of the kinds of acts shown?

Such as protecting organized crime groups in various lines of illegal business, including the drug traffic and prostitution? Murder for hire? Strike-breaking? PMs have been busted in recent months for all those things. Preventing the depiction and description of those activities is not a way to solve the problem. Nor is police self-regulation under a separate code of military justice.

I see a ROTA battlewagon cruise by in my neighborhood today and I wonder, “Can I really, in good conscience, live and work in a city where police do the sorts of things they have been doing in the city, state, region, and nation — according to a multitude of independent journalistic, government and scholarly sources — for decades?”

I wonder, to be honest, how anyone can.

It’s a tough question. And the “bad apples do not spoil the barrel” argument does not fly. If one in ten cops is a criminal, sooner or later, you are going to run across a cop that is a criminal.

And you wonder every time you call the cops, “If they send ten cops out, how many of them are going to be sociopathic criminals?”

It makes you less inclined to call the cops.

If my wallet gets stolen, I just want my wallet back, if possible. No need to summarily execute the poor bastard. This is not a service I want you to perform on my behalf.

You don’t really worry so much about that in New York. New York cops can sometimes misbehave in various ways — “it’s Giuliani time!” — but the thing is that even doing your job horribly, even criminally, wrong is still not the same thing as moonlighting for the mafia.

In New York, such cops have to answer to a jury of their peers.

And the papers put it on page one, day after day.

Stay tuned.


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