HECTOR BABENCO, the director of Carandiru, the most successful Brazilian film of all time, tells Tom Dawson how he had to get sick and go to prison to have a comeback.

The Argentinean born-director Hector Babenco is indebted to his friend and doctor Drauzio Varella for both saving his life and for inspiring his comeback film, the prison epic Carandiru. Having shot Kiss of the Spider Woman in the mid-19805, the filmmaker was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphatic cancer; he was so feeble when he made At Play in the Fields of the Lord that he had to direct from a wheelchair. For eight long years, Babenco was confined to the couch, and in his words, ‘excluded from this world’. But his oncologist Varella told him about his work at $50 Paolo’s notorious Carandiru correctional facility, where the doctor had volunteered his services one day a week to set up an Aids-prevention programme. ‘He was trying to entertain me and amuse me and take me away from my depression,’ explains the 58- year-old Babenco. ‘He told me about the prisoners’ wives and their tattoos.’ The stricken director encouraged Varella to write up his experiences into a book, which became a surprise best-seller in Brazil. ‘One day I felt better and more independent and I felt that something could happen in my life on a limited basis. I saw the book in an airport shop and I bought it. I said to myself that I‘m going to make a movie that is even better than the book.’

The film version of Carandiru is an impressive achievement, weaving together the personal stories of its multiple characters into a richly textured mosaic, before culminating in a terrifying prison massacre sequence. Given that

it has been the most successful film ever at the Brazilian box office, outperforming even the Rio de Janeiro-set City of God, I ask Babenco why it struck such a chord with his compatriots? ‘Our society is populated by marginal people, they live in a state of barbarianism, they are fed by rage and by anger. I believe audiences love this movie because it doesn’t say who is right and who is wrong.’

Some have claimed that Babenco has glamorised the jail’s inmates, but that’s an accusation he flatly rejects. During the research

Hector Babenco on set with actor Rodrigo Santoro


for the film, he made several visits to prison, and ‘didn’t see anybody like in a Bresson movie suffering in the corner having a crisis. They may have committed horrendous things outside of the walls, but when they are put together, they are guys with families and with senses of humour, and with their own explanations for what they did. And they respect the rules of prison, which are severe and unjust, because when you have 12 people in a cell for four, you have to respect each other.’

I Carandiru is on selected release from Fri 7 6 Apr. See review. page 32.


You‘ve probably not been counting the days until the release of this sequel to 2002s US hit Barbershop. which is a pity: as light comedies go. this is much more than a quick trim with the pudding bowl.

Set in a Chicago snippers. Kevin Rodney Sullivan's sequel abandons the tight 24-hour time frame of the original, allowing plenty of opportunity to explore the loquacious characters. Calvin (Ice Cube) and Eddie (played by the aptly named Cedric the Entertainer) are back with some soundtrack suppert from the Wu Tang Clan and Queen Latifah.

Ice Cube may have mellowed over the years. and it's

Demi waves and diatribes part two

somewhat painful to see him delivering a sermon on 'why Jesus wept'. at the town hall when his humble salon is threatened by a new franchised hairdressers across the road. But Cube's admirers will recognise the Barbershop series as a distillation of the warm rhythms of conversation and gentle. character-based humour previously offered in his Friday films. Working hard to stop things getting too touchy feely Cedric the Entertainer lets loose on tepics as diverse as the charges facing R Kelly, and why he's proud of the Washington DC sniper. It is not difficult to see why the two Barbershop movies grossed just short of 8130m in the States. (Eddie Harrison)

I General release from Fri 16 Apr.


Dude. where's my alternate universe? By some incredible quirk of casting. archetypal stoner-dude Ashton Kutcher appears here as a psychology major researching the human mind. and that‘s just the opening gambit in this consistently ludicrous thriller from Eric Bress and J Mackye Gruber (Final Destination 2).

Evan Treborn (Kutcher) finds himself able to move between alternate universes. but in his efforts to correct wrongs in one dimension. he accidentally influences events in others. It‘s a fun idea. far more neatly expressed in Ray Bradbury‘s short stery. A Sound of Thunder, than it is here. although the filmmakers wisely doff their caps to a genuine storyteller by displaying a Bradbury University pennant on a frat house wall. The problem is that the protagonist's actions prove to have dramatic implications that are nothing short of risible: he storms back in time to prevent himself from being abused. only to wake up in the present with no legs. or in jail. Not surprisingly. Kutcher struggles to make these moments seem real to us. In fact. they're laughable.

In this universe. everything is apparently possible. except the filmmakers seem unable to imagine anything that isn't ripped from the problem pages of a teen magazine. Unlike the Final Destination films. where fate pops up every ten minutes with a show-stopping death scene. there‘s literally nowhere to go once the central premise is explained. It Kutcher can switch realities like television channels. any dramatic tension simply drains away.

This trashy thriller does. however, prove a hugely entertaining diversion in attempting to showcase Kutcher's remarkable lack of versatility as an actor. Unconvincing as a brain scientist (duh!) he's somewhat implausible as a frat boy. then hilarious in his attempt to persuade us he's a grizzled convict. There‘s simply no beginning to this man‘s talent. Amy Smart. however. does well as long time love Kayleigh. and there's encugh energy in the whole bonkers enterprise to make it a passable watch. although you'll feel that you've explored every implausible permutation of Treborn's life well before the end. (Eddie Harrison)

I General release from Wed 74 Apr.

To be Treborn again

15—29 Apr 2004 THE LIST 29