Coffin Joe - The Strange World Of José Mojica Marins

Institute History

  • 2001 Sundance Film Festival


This astonishing documentary explores the frighteningly original world of the little-known Brazilian indie horror director, José Mojica Marins, the man whom Hollywood Reporter dubbed a cross between Russ Meyer and Luis Buñuel. But they have nothing to compare to the Mojica Marins signature flourish: his long, Nosferatu-like fingernails, untrimmed for 25 years.

On one level, Coffin Joe provides a sublime introduction to the cult of Mojica Marins, combining clips of his legendary horror masterpieces (Awakenings of the Beast, for example, made in 1968 and banned by the Brazilian military dictatorship) with interviews featuring the maestro himself, now in his seventies. On another level, the documentary raises complex questions about the nature of acting and artifice, the difference between cinema and "reality." These questions go to the heart of Mojica Marins's approach to cinema, for he was raised inside movie theatres run by his parents. It's safe to say he saw no great difference between his dreams, his screens, and the outside world.

His acting workshops take method acting to new extremes. Students throw themselves into paroxysms of terror, screaming, and writhing on the ground with religious fervor. On the set of his horror films, he plunges his cast into real-life torment by placing real tarantulas all over the near-naked bodies of his actresses to film their, um, responses. Finally, when those involved in some of his films begin to die, rumors of a production curse spread, and Mojica Marins must face the greatest crisis of his career.

— B Ruby Rich

Screening Details

Sundance Film Festival Awards

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