In ‘The Case of the Wrong Man,’ director Camila de Moraes brings to light the genocide of Black Brazilians and the globalization of racism

Paulo-Mileno-Camila-de-Moraes-at-Centro-Afro-Carioca-de-Cinema-Black-Carioca-Cinema-Center-actor-director-Zózimo-Bulbul-on-poster, In ‘The Case of the Wrong Man,’ director Camila de Moraes brings to light the genocide of Black Brazilians and the globalization of racism, Culture Currents
Paulo Mileno and Camila de Moraes at the Centro Afro Carioca de Cinema (Black Carioca Cinema Center). The poster behind them pictures actor-director Zózimo Bulbul, one of the founders of  Brazilian Black cinema.

by Paulo Mileno

“The Case of the Wrong Man” was screened at the David Brower Center in Berkeley, California. It is a Brazilian documentary, and is, according to the synopsis, “the story of a young Black worker, Júlio César de Melo Pinto, who was executed by police in the 1980s in Porto Alegre.” Porto Alegre is a city in the state of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil. Due to this area’s climate, European immigrant colonists who arrived in the 20th century found it easy to adapt to.

The crime gained notoriety after the press released photos of Julius being put in the police car alive and arriving, 37 minutes later, shot dead in the hospital. The film features the testimony of Ronaldo Bernardi, the photographer who took the pictures that made the case known, the widow of the worker, Juçara Pinto, and respected names in the struggle for human rights and the Black movement in Brazil.

In addition to the case that gives title to the film, the production also discusses the deaths of other Black people provoked by the police. Amnesty International calls it genocide of Black youth because of the large number of Black youths murdered by security forces in the country.

What this film denounces, through the story of Júlio César, is universal. Stories like these happen all over the world. What some intellectuals, like Donaldo Macedo and Panayota Gounari, define as the “Globalization of Racism” must be understood in its most particular expressions, as it is common for all Black people to be discriminated against because of their skin color.

Why did I begin this article saying “The Case of the Wrong Man” was shown in California? Well, this film could have gone to the Oscars. Yes, in the first list presented by the Ministry of Culture to represent Brazil, “The Case of the Wrong Man” was there. Considering fictional films garner much more criticism, press and popular attraction, this was a feat.

The issue of representation is essential when we speak to the masses, and this case has revealed to us the right woman. Her name is Camila de Moraes, a young filmmaker. Since 1984, no other Black woman has directed a feature film.

De Moraes became the second Black filmmaker in Brazilian history to launch her film with this authorial narrative. “I have listened to this story since I was a child, inside my house, because Júlio César was my father’s brother and brother’s godfather. So for 30 years we’ve been listening to this story. And this happened in 1987 and continues today. Every time young Blacks … ” Camila’s voice is choked.

In the same interview for the program CULTNE (an acronym for Black Culture), Camila demonstrates that her work is not usually selected for other festivals. However, when the film was shown at a cinema in the center of Porto Alegre with the political act, “Black Lives Matter,” having in that act a march starting in the famous Esquina Democrática (Democratic Corner) or in the city of Salvador, both sessions were always full. “The Black audience is always supporting us, saying the movie is good,” she said.

The-Case-of-the-Wrong-Man’-film-poster, In ‘The Case of the Wrong Man,’ director Camila de Moraes brings to light the genocide of Black Brazilians and the globalization of racism, Culture Currents

When de Moraes gets emotional, we can feel the power of social transformation. She reminds us, “We learn from the Black Movement, with Angela Davis, that when a Black woman moves, she moves the whole structure of society.” That was a part of Camila’s speech when she won the Donna Women Who Inspire 2019 Prize. Even with all the force that the “conscience story” of racism materializes, Camila has remained a warrior like the African Candaces, breaking down many barriers.

“The Case of the Wrong Man” won Best Film awards at the ninth Latino International Film Festival of Latin, Uruguayan and Brazilian Cinema (2017), at the II Competitive Black Film Festival Adélia Sampaio, Brazil (2018); 35th Human Rights Journalism Award in Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil; and the 15th Festival of Cinema of the Invinhema Valley (Mato Grosso do Sul, Brazil). The film also won the Adecoagro Special Black Consciousness Award.

Among other honors, “The Case of the Wrong Man” was selected for the 45th Gramado Film Festival in Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil (2017); eighth International Political Film Festival (FiCIP), Buenos Aires, Argentina (2018); 13th Latin American Film Festival of São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil (2018); 11th Meeting of Black Cinema Zózímo Bulbul, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (2018); I Black Cinema Touring Exhibition Mahomed Bamba (MIMB) Bahia, Brazil (2018); I Shows MAR – Women Activism Realization, Bahia, Brazil (2018); 18th Short Film Festival of Sergipe Afro-Dite, Sergipe, Brazil (2018); II Exposition of the Cinema Teresa de Benguela, in Espírito Santo, Brazil (2018); and II International Film Festival of Filmmakers (FINCAR), Recife, Brazil in August of (2018). This film attracted a large audience when it was also shown on television by Canal Brasil, a Brazilian cinema channel.

When Camila won the II Mostra Competitiva de Cinema Negro Adélia Sampaio (Adélia Sampaio was the first Black female filmmaker, releasing her film “Amor Maldito” in 1984), she said on stage, “It’s very important to know who is making new films in this huge country.” And then, as Viola Davis said when she won the 2015 Emmy Awards with her show “How To Get Away With Murder”: “The only thing that separates a woman of color from everyone else is opportunity.”

If we are talking about our identity and the question of our own subjectivities, we have, poetically speaking, a mirror so other people can see themselves reflected, understand the message and contribute to a revolutionary process. Professor Achille Mbembe contextualizes this revolutionary process in the “Turning of the Negro in the World,” the introduction of his work “The Critique of Black Reason,” “ … like a river with multiple tributaries, in this precious moment history and things have turned to us and Europe has ceased to be the center of gravity of the world.

Indeed, this is the great event, or rather we would say, the fundamental experience of our time. And we are only just now beginning the work of measuring its implications and weighing its consequences.[1] Whether such a revelation is an occasion for joy or cause for surprise or worry, one thing remains certain: the demotion of Europe opens up possibilities – and presents dangers – for critical thought.”[2]

Camila-de-Moraes-and-her-team, In ‘The Case of the Wrong Man,’ director Camila de Moraes brings to light the genocide of Black Brazilians and the globalization of racism, Culture Currents
Camila de Moraes and her team

Sometimes we wake up but can’t see the way forward. The struggle for social transformation within a racial context, every day and every night, does not always give space for good dreams. So I do not want to tell a lie.

But, I’m right. If all our people seek to understand our history, from the time of our ancestors in the colonial period to the production of a dialectically opposed discourse on the political scene by generations of Pan-Africanists in the enslaved period itself or in the present period (which we call democracy), and if Black people form the greater part of humanity in the world, then we must be confident in victory.

“The Case of the Wrong Man” brings to light the genocide of Black people in Brazil and the globalization of racism. In a country where the demythologization of the concept of racial democracy is recent, at least at the level of government, we must bring to public debate the racist motivations that provoke social inequalities so that Brazilian people play a role in the history of the African Diaspora, while Brazil recognizes itself among its phenotypes and subjectivities. But, above all, it is possible to globalize solidarity and the sense of humanity that Africa contributed to our earliest civilizations. In this sense, as Professor Abdias do Nascimento taught us:

“The thinking and action of Blacks and Africans must proceed to a critical and revolutionary actualization of their specific values, integrating, adding the values ​​of other origins, appropriately reduced, to the needs of the African Revolution. We must, Blacks and Africans, emphasize our presence in this world that shapes the civilization of the future. A civilization open to all events of human existence, free from exploiters and exploited, which results in the impossible existence of oppressors and oppressed of any race or epidermal color. We do not wish to transfer to others the responsibilities that history has given us.”

Paulo Mileno is an actor, writer and researcher in the Nucleus of African Philosophy at the State University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He can be reached at

[1] Dipesh Chakrabarty, Provincializing Europe: Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference, Princeton Studies in Culture/Power/History (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2000); Jean Comaroff , Theory from the South; or, How Euro- America is Evolving toward Africa (Boulder, CO: Paradigm, 2011); Arjun Appadurai, ed., The Future as Cultural Fact: Essays on the Global Condition (London: Verso Books, 2013); Kuan- Hsing Chen, Asia as Method: Toward Deimperialization (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2010); Walter Mignolo, The Darker Side of Western Modernity: Global Futures, Decolonial Options (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2011)

[2] Achille Mbembe, Critique of Black Reason, p. 17 (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2017)