The Burning Season (1994)
The Ultimate Price
As a child Chico Mendes witnessed his father, a rubber tapper, being taken advantage of by those in charge and it lead to him being ashamed. Thirty years later and like his father Chico (Raul Julia) is now a rubber tapper but facing a different battle to that of his father as there is those who want to take their land from them to build a road through the forest. Refusing to be beaten down Chico ends up representing the rubber union workers and standing strong in the face of violence and threats which sees people injured and killed on both sides of the argument. But every time it looks like he has scored a victory the fight keeps rumbling on until those wanting to build the road decide to take things further than ever before.
I will be honest, I hadn't heard of Chico Mendes or the fight of the Rubber Tappers before coming across "The Burning Season" but I still knew what to expect. I shall say spoiler alert here but as this is a true story about a real person then it seems a bit futile. Anyway the synopsis I read for "The Burning Season" said in a simplified way Chico Mendes thought for the rights of his people and ended up paying the ultimate price when he was killed for making a stand and refusing to back down. Now the thing is that change the name and location and it sounds like some other movies about people who paid the ultimate price standing up to bullies to protect their own.
But "The Burning Season" has the specifics of the story and it is incredibly powerful and educational as we watch the corruption which Mendes and his people faced in trying to protect their land. The intimidation, the violence, the use of armed forces, being shot at as they walked through the woods it is all incredibly powerful and moving. And at the heart of this is Raul Julia delivering an award winning performance, making us believe we are watching Chico Mendes who is passionate but also weary of the fighting and constant pressure on him to try and lead his people passively.
What this all boils down to is that at its heart "The Burning Season" uses a theme which other movies have used with its true story of a person fighting for what is right and paying the ultimate price. But it is both a powerful story and a powerful performance from Raul Julia which makes it captivating from start to finish. Yes it has issues but the plus points vastly out weigh them.
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