International Cinema : Neglected... Brazil's Palme d'Or

Neglected... Brazil's Palme d'Or

O Pagador de Promessas , Payer of Promises (1962) Directed by Anselmo Duarte

It is surprising that this great Brazilian film has been so neglected. Up against some of the best filmmakers of the times the film won the Palme d'Or at the 1962 Cannes Film Festival. It was Brazil's first and only win of the top prize.

O Pagador de Promessas tells the tale of a simple and well meaning peasant farmer Zé (Leonardo Villar). After his ill donkey makes a miraculous recovery Ze sets off on an obsessive mission, on foot he carries a heavy life size wooden cross 10 miles, his offering of thanks to the Catholic Church of Saint Bárbara. His wife Rosa (Glória Menezes) reluctantly follows him.

Ze lives by a simple code, all you have is your word and without it you are damned here on this earth by your own conscience. He struggles to understand the refusal of the Priest to accept his offering, he does not understand the Marxist labels the press have sensationally applied and he is unaware that the Candomblé religious followers are using his quest to rally for their own cause against the Catholic Church.

Many of the strikingly composed images in black and white are unforgettable, a film of cultural interest which packs a social and political punch. A film sadly neglected waiting for rediscovery.

Highly Recommended