When democracy fails, it’s not hard to believe in a “deep state” conspiracy. Whether it’s the Illuminati or Lizard People, there are puppet masters working behind the scenes to maintain the status quo. The Cannibal Club (or O Clube dos Canibais) expands on the idea of a select group of wealthy elites, calling the shots in Brazil.
Otavio (played by Tavinho Teixeira) lives on a large beach property, walled-off from the general public. He’s the CEO of a private security company, and provides guards to associates in the same wealth bracket. He is also a member of a secret society of businessmen and politicians, led by congressman Borges (Pedro Domingues). The Club regularly meets to discuss the future of Brazil. They talk about saving the country from the scum of the streets, as they wine and dine on the finest of human meats.
Outside of the activities of the Club, Otavio and his wife Gilda (Ana Luiza Rios) have their own cannibalistic rituals. Gilda chooses a caretaker based on semi-nude photos of male applicants. The chosen caretaker then takes residence on their property, sleeping in a small room. Once trust is established, Gilda seduces the caretaker. They fornicate in the master bedroom, under the pretence that Otavio is away on business. In reality, Otavio hiding in the closet, furiously masturbating. As he reaches climax, he will bust out and axe the unsuspecting caretaker in the back. The couple concludes their cuckold/murder game by cooking and eating their victim. An ad for job opening will be posted the next day.
The Club continues to function with impunity. It exists in a country that sees crime exclusive to the poor. But Otavio’s lavish life is thrown into jeopardy when Gilda accidentally witnesses Borges in a compromising situation. Should word get out, it could spell scandal for Borges’ re-election campaign (as if it’s bad enough that he’s eating the poor). One of the Club’s members had already been met with an “unfortunate accident” over the suspicion that he was snitching. Otavio and Gilda’s lives are very likely in danger.
Cannibal Club is a social commentary on how the ruling class wields their power over the poor in the most extreme of ways. The members of the lower class are viewed as disposable. Animals led to the slaughter under the guise of employment. They are sexualized, brutalized and then consumed.
There’s one scene at gala where the wife of a wealthy businessman is talking about her recently trip to the First World. She expresses her disgust having to return to Brazil and pass all the squeegee kids on her way from the airport to her gated property. In so many words, she believes that Brazil would be better if all the beggars and homeless children just died. I honestly have more sympathy for the savages of Cannibal Holocaust than for the affluent members of the Cannibal Club. There’s nothing redeemable or relatable about our protagonists. Only in the third act, do we meet encounter a character worth rooting for.
The timing of this movie is incredibly relevant considering the political climate in Brazil. Next week, there will be a presidential election, where the population must choose between the lesser of two evils. On one side, there’s the democratic socialist Worker’s Party, whose former leader and Brazil’s former president was arrested for corruption and money laundering. One the other hand, there’s the far-right populist party led by former army captain Jair Bolsonaro, frequently described as the “Donald Trump of Brazil.” Bolsonaro is ahead in the polls, running on a platform of returning Brazil to traditional values, at the expense of the LGBT community. Most notably, he wants to loosen regulations that will allow police to kill drug dealers on site. Either way, the poor lose.
The issues presented in Cannibal Club are not exclusive to Brazil, though the location works because of the large wealth gap. Writer/director Guto Parente beautifully captures South American culture in this dark satire. Parente doesn’t shy away from displaying the sex and violence, though sometimes prefers to leave it to the audience’s imagination. Regardless, you won’t be able to look away, as the tone and its visual execution pulls you in.
The one percent has been metaphorically cannibalizing their workers for centuries. Their constant pursuit of capital has brought the planet closer to annihilation. To rework a revolutionary’s famous line; we must eat the rich, before they eat us.
The Cannibal Club had its North American premiere at the Brooklyn Horror Film Festival on October 17th.