World Reports

Rubens Gerchman, Secure Your Future, 1967. Photographic reproduction by unknown author.
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By DANIEL BRAZIL*

Commentary on the film directed by Paul Greengrass

World Reports, a film starring Tom Hanks, should receive a handful of Oscar nominations. A melancholic, humanist western, with beautiful cinematography, direction and soundtrack, which fits well in the revisionist line of history of the not-quite-United States of America.

Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd, a civil war veteran, is tasked with bringing news to the most isolated corners of the South still scarred by defeat. He reads newspapers for a few coins in each village. And right at the beginning of the narrative he finds an orphan girl, Johanna, of German origin (impressively played by Helena Zengel), whose parents were killed and was raised by Indians from the Kiowa nation, also eliminated by the bloodthirsty white advance in the prairies. She is an orphan duo, abandoned and not speaking a word of English.

The captain makes it his mission to deliver it to distant relatives, uncles who live in another state, 500 km away. The journey will not be easy, and the relationship between them is being built in a subtle way, supported by stunning images and a discreet and efficient soundtrack.

If you want to know more, watch the movie; you will not regret it. A sensitive and introspective retelling of the classic American western, where moviegoers will recognize the obvious reference to the classic right away. Hate Trails, from 1956. There, another civil war veteran, John Wayne, found a girl, his niece, who had her parents killed and was kidnapped and raised by the Indians.

Here I want to call attention to a detail, a subplot that may go unnoticed by some people, and that will not interfere with the enjoyment of the narrative. The film, based on a novel by Paulette Jiles, News of the Word, accompanies a pre-radio, pre-television news presenter. And the news he narrates is not always good.

Director Paul Greengrass exposes the scars of the Civil War, showing the uncontainable rancour of southerners when the news refers to the “central government”. The public behaves in an unequal way: it either reacts savagely, cursing the politicians, or passively, bovinely accepting the information selected by the captain-reader.

A few coins drip into his mug, enough for him to go to another location to continue his task. In one of them, he is rudely surrounded by a gang, headed by a guy who is the law of the place: he is mayor, police chief and judge, and everyone works for him. Imagine a kind of Serra Pelada, in the 70s, with a reporter facing a Major Curió…

The scene in which the tortured Captain Kidd (yes, he has a crisis of conscience!) achieves greater empathy with his audience is when he abandons political or economic stories, which directly affect people's lives, and narrates a news, a mere curiosity, which provokes general laughter. The audience grows, the coins jingle with more resonance.

The embryo of the “journalism” of our times is portrayed there. Entertainment instead of what really matters. The spectacularization of the news, the emphasis on oddities instead of political and economic maneuvers that will directly affect people's lives. The dramatization of facts, throwing dust in the spectator's eyes. Instead of saying that gasoline prices rose 7%, and that this will affect the entire production chain, including the price of rice on the market, our TV sends a reporter (preferably handsome) to a gas station, where he/she a will say theatrically that “gasoline now at this pump costs 5,10 a liter”. Ah, the rage at the gas station pump!

Captain Kidd doesn't even need such a ruse. Intuitively, he discovers that talking about the supposedly dead who rose from the dead, about the father who threw his daughter out the window, about the fight between so and so on the BBB, can yield more audience (and profit) than talking about serious matters that affect the community and lead to a mobilization. The news that is not going to change anything in anyone's life, properly dramatized, is a guaranteed success. It is a forerunner of the media of our times, no doubt.

Will the captain find the uncles and return the girl? Well there it is with you. Prepare the popcorn and have fun!

* Daniel Brazil is a writer, author of the novel suit of kings (Penalux), screenwriter and TV director, music and literary critic.

Reference


World Reports (News of the World)

USA, 2020, 119 minutes.

Directed by: Paul Greengrass

Cast: Tom Hanks, Helena Zengel, Elizabeth Marvel, Tom Astor, Andy Kastelic, Travis Johnson, Mare Winningham.

 

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