The Brazilian action movie “Elite Squad 2” delves into the violent world Rio de Janeiro’s militias—gangs of corrupt cops that have violently seized many of city’s poorest neighborhoods and run them like mafias. One critic called the film a welcome break from “the usual angst and weirdness” at Sundance. But militias cause plenty of angst in real life, as I learned shortly after arriving in Rio:
Soon after the movie’s national debut, I caught a taxi whose driver was rather dangerously watching a bootleg of the film on a small TV in his car as he drove. “I’m just listening to the audio,” was his excuse. The driver said he dealt daily with the reality that had inspired the film. A militia controlled the neighborhood where his taxi cooperative was based, he said, and he and other drivers were forced to pay a chunk of their meager income to the miltia. If they didn’t, the gunfire sound of gunfire coming from the tiny TV was a reminder of what might be in store.