Institute History

  • 2004 Sundance Film Festival


Hector Babenco's eighth feature film offers a penetrating look inside the infamous São Paulo House of Detention, dubbed "Carandiru," where, in 1992, riot police massacred 111 unarmed prisoners in what became a Brazilian national scandal. Carandiru invests this shocking, true story with deep humanism and unflinchingly depicts wrenching hardships and injustices in modern Brazil, as seen by its most marginalized citizens.

The story unfolds before the eyes of a doctor who volunteers his services at the facility, where prisoners' health is compromised by overcrowding, violence, and poor sanitation, as well as the brutal onset of AIDS. Gaining the confidence of the thieves, rapists, and murderers he attends, the doctor learns about the intricate structures of power, authority, and morality that govern prisoners' lives, as well as the histories of deprivation and cyclical violence that have led them to this earthly purgatory. Infused with both whimsy and horror, these testimonies etch indelible portraits of the fascinating characters and effectively lament the soul of a nation.

A large, magnificent cast brings this story vividly to life, supported by superb art direction and technical contributions. Capped by Babenco's vigorous, often ferocious direction, the film is a towering achievement, offering an unforgettable portrayal of the lives and plight of the forgotten.

— Shannon Kelley

Screening Details

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