The inhabitants of the state of Alagoas are known as the most “intense” in the Northeast. “If you look closely at the map of Brazil, the state is shaped like a gun,” joked René Guerra, who was born in the state.
“There is this joke that people from Alagoas are brave… From that point on, I started my research tracking down some of the killers in the region”, added the filmmaker, director of “Serial Kelly”, which premieres in national cinemas this Thursday (24).
The film is his first feature, but not his first version. According to René, research for the film began in 2010, when he was still in college. He went to the backlands of Alagoas to meet all the figures that inhabited that landscape and thought of making a more violent film, with more gore (extreme violence), according to him. However, on a second visit, the script changed and he raised the following question: What defines a serial killer?
The feature features Gaby Amarantos, in her debut on the big screen, as Kelly, a cheesy singer who earns her living singing in various “little hells” in the hinterland. When she doesn’t work, however, she tries to get revenge on men who did her wrong and in her own way; if someone owes her money or disrespects her, she gets killed.
Such murders draw the attention of police chief Fabiola (Paula Cohen) who begins to pursue the singer to try to stop her killing.
The film does not judge Kelly, it lets the viewer decide for himself whether the motives for the murders are justifiable, however, it makes it clear that, as a black woman, Kelly tries to make her way as she can.
“You could say it’s a pro-feminist film. It is a pursuit in a totally absurd Northeast hinterland. I think we can laugh at anyone in the movie but Kelly,” said the filmmaker.
Machismo, racism and lgbtphobia are treated in the film as the true social killers that they are. In one of the first scenes in the film, we see a trans woman who has been murdered, for example. The delegate tries to advance the case, but the police discourage her, saying that she is just a prostitute, that everyone there should focus their efforts on the murder that happened earlier, the murder of a good man.
The “good man”, in this case, did not pay a large amount that he owed Kelly, who ended the debt.
All of the singer’s murders are well constructed, with beautiful photography and impeccable performance by Gaby. She is a very expressive actress who, due to her experience on stage with cheesy music, managed to incarnate a Kelly who is in charge of herself.
“I didn’t have any challenges knowing that Gaby had courage and confidence in me. As a diva, she became one of the best actresses I’ve ever worked with”, said René.
Gaby, of course, sings in the feature several times. There are so many musical numbers that the film could be fitted (also) in the musical genre, in addition to drama, suspense and comedy. The director himself does not want to fit the film into any box, but recognizes the comic vein that exists in the production, starting with the title.
“A filmmaker came up to me, I was still with the film project, and asked: ‘Why are you going to make a comedy film?’ Guys, comedy is subversion!”, he says.
The film exposes to ridicule several situations that make up the interior of Brazil: the massive presence of tacky music, religious cults and the nationalist press. The only person to call Kelly a “serial killer” is a television presenter when interviewing police chief Fabiola, who quickly scolds the journalist: “In the land of killers, the woman who kills becomes a serial killer”.
“The profound Brazil is revealed throughout the film”, says René, “our country is not as kind as it seems: it is racist, homophobic and sexist”.
Despite bringing up important political issues when dealing with the social situation of minorities, the director does not consider the film “militant”, in that sense.
“I have a lot of respect for denunciation, urgency and genre cinema, but I want this film to reach the public, with all its layers”, said the filmmaker.
“Serial Kelly” brings a makeover in a genre already so saturated in movies and series that fill streaming platforms. In the same interview, René revealed, for example, that he couldn’t get past the first episode of the Netflix series about serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer. For him, dramatizing murders in fiction is quite different than glorifying real killers. Humanizing the inhuman, without any layer of complexity, is pure torture for those who watch.
“We have, for example, several marriage proposals for murderers of women here in Brazil while they are in prison”, he says, “these people need to be forgotten”.
Source: CNN Brasil