Jean Charles

Jean Charles

Jean Charles (2009). Directed by Henrique Goldman.

Jean Charles was the biggest surprise of the Toronto International Film Festival for me. I expected an English speaking film along the lines of United 93, but recounting the London train bombings in 2005. Instead, I watched a heart-wrenching film about Jean Charles de Menezes, a young Brazilian man that London police misidentified as a terrorist, and shot dead.

Director Henrique Goldman does a fabulous job of celebrating the life of Jean Charles and expressing the outrage felt by the Brazilian community toward the London police. The first part of the film introduces Jean (Selton Mello) as a hard-working immigrant that loves his adopted home of London. His determination, charm and dreams are brought to life by Mello who inhabits the character of Jean so much, that Charles’ own mother was impressed by his performance.

Goldman keeps the panic and terror experienced by Londoners, simmering in the background of the film, while most of the screen time is focused on Jean’s relationship with his cousin Vivian (Vanessa Giacomo), his friend Alex (Luis Miranda) and his other cousin, Patricia Armani (who plays herself in the film). They’re all so focused on improving their lives and following their dreams, that the terror around them feels distant, irrelevant. This makes the tragedy that befalls Jean even more shocking and difficult to watch when it happens. One minute he’s full of hope and and the next minute he’s being gunned down by the police.

The rest of the film deals with the grief and outrage that is experience by Jean’s friends and family. Jean was an innocent victim but the British authorities are unwilling to admit their mistake, even to this day which is one of the reasons why Henrique Goldman felt compelled to make this film.

Jean Charles is in Portuguese with English subtitles and it’s not to be missed!


Films are rated from 1 to 4 stars.

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Posted in 2009 TIFF at 7:39 PM