There is an undeniable pulse to Manda Bala (Send a Bullet), a highly kinetic narrative somewhere between the stylized realism of City of God and the eccentric absurdism of Werner Herzog’s documentaries. Part experimental essay and part investigative journalism, this documentary sets out to explore seemingly disparate elements of modern Brazil — nimbly leaping from corrupt politicians to ransom kidnappings, bulletproofing companies to frog farms — and expertly ties them together, exposing an ongoing cycle of human exploitation and extortion. As one kidnapper puts it, “You either steal with a gun or a pen.”
First-time director Jason Kohn brings a highly innovative visual style to the film, with some scenes displaying an almost action-thriller aesthetic, while others radiate with poetry and metaphor. The concluding shot of thousands of tadpoles being washed down a drain while the credits roll is one of the most beautiful, if haunting, scenes in the entire film.