With the intention of bringing to the public a relevant debate on the parallel between the foreign dream and the power of the uniform, José Joffily (Who Killed Pixote) and Pedro Rossi (Way Back) follow the journey of three Brazilians in the army in France, Israel and the United States, respectively. Released in theaters in early December, the documentary has its ups and downs. The story loses its force by choosing a linear approach and a separation in three acts for each of its characters.
From the story of Bruno Silva, resident of Mesquita, town of Baixada Fluminense, Soldado Estrangeiro begins both pragmatic and emotional. Showcasing scenes from Bruno’s daily life with his five-year-old daughter, whether she combs his nails or takes him to the park, the documentary constructs the image of a simple, budding man to reach levels impossible to within Brazilian society.
Without ever speaking directly to the camera, Bruno explains that Rio de Janeiro is more dangerous than a war situation. According to him, “terrorism is here every day”. With an acquaintance with the Foreign Legion (Foreign Legion), in Paris, he puts all his chips on the effort to lead the battles of another nation to support his daughter in Brazil. Dismissed from compulsory national military service, for a surplus, he considers it a second chance.
After 25 minutes, the documentary changes scenery and moves to the border of the Gaza Strip, between Israel and Palestine. There, the camera follows young Mário Wasercjer on patrol and training with colleagues from the IDF. Unlike the first character, he’s already integrated into his working environment with a pistol in his hand and a helmet on his head.
At a certain point, in the family environment, the directors try to extract a reflection from the adolescent. However, he is simply saying that he is afraid to say anything and then suffers retaliation from the government. According to the young man, the army chiefs recommend not to speak out on political questions. In fact, the footage shows a boy with a gun in his hand, still budding masculinity, and an uncritical mind. With a uniform on his chest, the young man cries out to his family that he is responsible for the protection of the whole country.
His story has no explicit motivation, Mário only talks about his financial benefits due to military work. It is possible to perceive him as a soldier without any question about his role in society, he is a piece of the military genius of the country. Fortunately, in the 58th minute, Soldado Estrangeiro abandoned the childish army to give voice to the legal struggle between Felipe de Almeida and the US government.
Fighting in the war in Afghanistan, the third character suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and cannot find a way to redemption in the country for which he fought. In this third act, the intention of the authors is verified to make a cadence between the beginning, the middle and the end of international military careers. However, the idea makes the tale boring, if the viewer cannot find a point of connection with the character.
With a long list of issues, the final act appeals to sentimentality at the same time as it attempts to take Felipe’s perspective on life, but without asking him to say his moment of decision. Without going into details, the Brazilian is fighting for a pension to survive after risking his life on behalf of the United States. Was it worth it to be a sniper? We don’t know the answer.
Without questioning the choices of its characters or even presenting them in addition to pecuniary advantages, Foreign Soldier does not respond to the motivations of men to leave their homeland for risky service in another territory. Only the first story has a comprehensive perspective, the others begin and end without peeling the surface of the documentary proposition.
From the problematic editing, the story would be more effective to follow the reports in parallel and to draw bridges between these human beings and their motivations. As it stands, Foreign Soldier starts off promising, but immerses himself in great blows without adding the speech of these men to the territory of exploitation. What does this job represent for them? What are the obstacles? Why this country? These are unanswered questions.
According to the documentary, Bruno dreams, Mário plays and Felipe suffers. The reality desired by the work is far from this hemless seam. Finally, passages from a literary work attempt to fill the discursive void, but this is only a decorative artefact in a setting where more voices could be heard and analyzed.
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