Directed by: Carlos Diegues
Starring: Antônio Fagundes, Wagner Moura, Paloma Duarte, Bruce Gomlevsky
Of the small number of actors I can think of who’ve played God over the years, my favorite is probably still Rex Ingram in The Green Pastures (1936). But having seen Antônio Fagundes as the Crafty But Benign Old Gentleman Upstairs, I think I’ve encountered His most believable screen incarnation. Fagundes’ God is an interesting mix of philosophical pragmatist and lonely—and somewhat petulant—old man. Not that God in Carlos Digues’ 2005 film God Is Brazilian ever admits to loneliness, but it’s at the core of this charming, thoughtful, admittedly meandering film.
The premise is that God is tired and stressed. He’s simply burnt out on people wanting things from Him (“God, get me this or that”) or blaming him for things. He’d like a holiday, but first he must find a saint to put in charge of things while He floats around the universe and watches the supernovas. To this end, He appears in Brazil (standing on a pole in a river like a water-bound Simon of the desert) and enlists the aid of a charming young scoundrel, Taoca (Wagner Moura), to take him to find the elusive Quinca of the Mules (Bruce Gomlevsky), who He’s convinced is the man for the job. The problem is that Quinca always seems to have just left wherever God and Taoca go to look for him.
That’s the workable premise of Diegues’ fanciful movie, which is at bottom a kind of ecclesiastical buddy/road picture that uses its journey to explore both the nature of God and humankind. Funny and frequently perceptive, it raises most of the right questions—some of which have been raised over the years in films as diverse as the aforementioned Green Pastures and Peter Medak’s The Ruling Class (1972)—and often puts forth strangely satisfying, if not always comfortable, answers. It’s far from perfect (I’m very uncomfortable with the subtext of a sequence involving a drag queen), but it’s never less than fascinating in the way it observes the God/human dynamic. Plus, both God and Taoca are charming creations that make the film a true pleasure to encounter.
— reviewed by Ken Hanke