18 August 2013 | Rodrigo_Amaro
A closer look at a Brazilian tragedy
The closest our cinema will ever get to the powerful "The China Syndrome" and deal with the dangers of nuclear energy and radioactivity. Both films are quite haunting and know how to impress its viewers. But "Césio 137 - O Pesadelo de Goiânia" ("Goiânia's Nightmare") has a more devastating effect afterwards because it's about a real tragedy that took place in Goiânia, in 1987 and it's considered the biggest radiological incident ever registered.
It all started when two scavengers (played by Paulo Gorgulho and Paulo Betti) took a heavy metal object from an abandoned hospital to sell the material thinking it would have some scrap value. Sold the material to scrapyard owner Devair (Nelson Xavier), the problems began right away when the men started to feel sick, and everyone around them blamed about the food they ingested. When Devair discovers a blue light coming out of the object, he begin to find the object valuable and beautiful, extracting the source of such light to everyone he knows simply because it glows in the dark. Adults like it, kids like it. And the rest you can already predict. Tragedy takes place with more and more people getting sick believeing they're getting all those problems due to bad food. What they would find out days later is that they were contaminated with a radioactive agent from that stolen piece, a composition from a X-Ray device.
Although constructed with factual testimonies from the real people, survivors of the event (that killed 4 people in 1987 and 80 more in the years to come) this doesn't get near the real life tragedy, it just gives you a good and hard perspective of how the story broke out to the world. The brief presentation I made about the film is the whole movie. Most of it is quite repetitive, circling time and time again on the object's fate and contamination. But not much time were given to the aftermath of the case, rushing things in the nick of time. A better script and a better editing would help an already good film.
It's a powerful film and we can all agree on that. It's a story about a tragic ignorance from all sides - the population, the medical doctors, the authorities who managed the isolation afterwards and little did they know about it - but the radiation isn't the sole invisible villain from it. We need to talk about the "educated" people who closed down a whole facility and left those equipments there. Their stupidity is enormous, the other invisible villain from the movie. In the real case, they were fined in court but no one was held responsible, no one went to jail for their shameful mistake.
As said before, this doesn't get near the frightening scenario. In 2003 was released the informative short documentary "Césio 137, O Brilho da Morte" which tells not only about the tragedy but also the fate of the population who lived through it. One of my greatest joy was to see that the only concerned character of the movie, a nurse who alarmed people about the dangers of dealing with unknown materials taken from a hospital, is still living. But the shock came when it was revealed that Roberto Pires, the director of this film, was one of the Césio victims, dying a few years later. The documentary is not credited on this site but it's easy to be found and it tells a lot about of the prejudice the victims suffer even today, living in a city associated with the radiation.
Credible performances makes of this a very reliable project, specially the good acting from Xavier who commonly plays wise characters in movies and TV series but here gets an 180 degree turn, a scary transformation; the great Joana Fomm who plays his wife and the excellent Denise Milfont, who plays the courageous nurse. Overall, depressive but something to be seen. 8/10