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From 0′ 15” to 3′ 22” the 1968 Italian film Burn! (Queimada!) features one of the most powerful opening credit sequences in cinema history.
Watch that part of the film if nothing else.
It was directed by Gillo Pontecorvo and starred Marlon Brando. Set on a Caribbean island in the early 19th century, the story centered on a revolution cynically orchestrated by one colonial power against another colonial power and the fallout resulting from things not going entirely to plan. (Do they ever?)
Problems dogged Burn!‘s production. The budget spun out of control, and diplomatic pressure forced the producers to set the film in a Portuguese rather than a Spanish colony. Since the Portuguese were never active in the Caribbean, this created historical inaccuracies beyond Pontecorvo’s control. Brando was his usual moody self, frequently clashing with the director and generally getting in everyone’s way (although he later claimed Burn! contained some of his best work). And finally, at Brando’s insistence, the production was moved – with only two weeks of shooting left – from Colombia to Morocco.
The word frequently repeated during the opening credits is abolição, Portuguese for “abolition”. The slaves were manipulated into a general uprising which overthrew colonial rule. The abolition of slavery then led to all sorts of complications. The heavy hand of imperialism sought to smooth out these complications, like a falling boulder smooths out a bicycle. ‘Twas ever thus.
- You may find it necessary to rewind it back to 0′ 15″ to catch the whole opening credit sequence.
- Unfortunately the American distributor cut about 20 minutes from the original, making the English version seen here unnecessarily rough and jerky. It was an artistic affront, but nobody needs me to remind them that Hollywood is ruled by accountants.