Theatrical release poster
Directed by
Written by
  • Kleber Mendonça Filho
  • Juliano Dornelles
Produced by
CinematographyPedro Sotero
Edited byEduardo Serrano
Music by
  • Mateus Alves
  • Tomaz Alves Souza
Distributed by
  • Vitrine Filmes (Brazil)
  • SBS Distribution (France)
Release dates
  • 15 May 2019 (2019-05-15) (Cannes)
  • 29 August 2019 (2019-08-29) (Brazil)
  • 25 September 2019 (2019-09-25) (France)
Running time
132 minutes
  • Brazil
  • France
  • Portuguese
  • English
Budget$1.43 million[1]
Box office$3.5 million[2]

Bacurau (Portuguese for 'nightjar'; [bɐkuˈɾaw]) is a 2019 Weird Western film[3] written and directed by Kleber Mendonça Filho and Juliano Dornelles.[4] It stars Sônia Braga, Udo Kier, Bárbara Colen, Thomas Aquino, Silvero Pereira, and Karine Teles. The film, a co-production between Brazil and France,[5][6] revolves around Bacurau, a fictional small town in the Brazilian sertão that is beset by strange happenings following the death of its matriarch, Carmelita (Lia de Itamaraca), at the age of 94.[7][8] The film was selected to compete for the Palme d'Or at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival,[9] and won the Jury Prize.[10][11]


In the near future, the people of Bacurau, an impoverished, rural settlement in the fictional municipality of Serra Verde, in western Pernambuco, gather for the funeral of Carmelita, an elderly woman seen as the matriarch of the community. Her granddaughter Teresa, now a young woman, returns to town after many years for the occasion, and to deliver some medicine. In the following days, the village experiences a sequence of strange events, including the town inexplicably disappearing from online maps and satellite images, loss of mobile phone signal, sightings of a UFO-shaped drone and an unnamed couple from southern Brazil passing through town on motorcycles.

There is an ongoing dispute over water rights from the local river, with water being dammed upstream in a corrupt scheme masterminded by the wealthy mayor of Serra Verde, Tony Junior. He visits Bacurau in an attempt to secure its residents' votes in an upcoming election with old food and tattered books, but no water; the townspeople all hide to avoid him. A tanker truck of water finally arrives for the town, but it has been riddled with bullets.

When horses stampede through town, two local men are sent to investigate the nearby farm from where they presumably escaped and find the family that owned it murdered. As they attempt to leave the property, they too are murdered, by the southern motorcyclists. This couple then meets up with a group of mostly American foreigners led by Michael. The couple is chastised for killing the two men, as killing them deprived the foreigners of two chances to score "points." After receiving unheard instructions through earpieces, the foreigners kill the couple and then argue over who earned the points for their deaths.

The foreigners begin hunting the townspeople, and Pacote, Teresa's former lover, seeks out Lunga, a revolutionary protecting and being sheltered by the townspeople. Pacote convinces Lunga to join his fight against the foreigners. As the townspeople arm themselves, the foreigners kill a nine-year-old boy and cut off the town's electricity.

The following morning, as the foreigners go hunting, they are gradually overpowered and killed by the locals, with the exception of Michael, who ends up captured. Tony Junior shows up to collect the foreigners in a luxury minibus. When he sees that the townspeople have won, he denies knowing the foreigners until the captured Michael yells to him for help. The mayor is sent away to die in the desert, half-naked and tied up to a donkey, while Michael is buried alive in an underground cell while shouting "this is only the beginning."




Bacurau was filmed in the village of Barra in the municipality of Parelhas and in the rural area of the municipality of Acari, at the Sertão do Seridó region, in Rio Grande do Norte.[12] The film crew visited over 20 cities in the Northeast countryside to find the right filming location.[13]

Cinematographers Pedro Sotero and Kleber Mendonça worked on the film alongside the production designer, Juliano Dornelles. They have worked on other films together as well including Neighboring Sounds (2012) and Aquarius (2016).[14]

The cinematographer used a Panavision Anamorphic C-series lenses along with a 4:3 digital sensor for the compact and a reliable ARRI Alexa Mini.[13] This stylistic choice came at an expense however, with the specific lenses not being sold in Brazil, the crew had to import them from both the United States and France. The end result, in the opinion of the directors, helped "create this tension between a very Brazilian film and a certain distortion that you associate with classic American films. I think we were very lucky to make the film exactly the way we wanted it to make."[15] The crew shot 12-hour days for 8 weeks.[13]

A self-proclaimed cinephile, Kleber Mendonça Filho, stated in an interview that the cinematographers for the film drew inspiration from several sources, including both 1970's American western style films and Italian westerns from the 1960's.[15]

Bacurau departed from several cinematographic norms during its production. Among these include the use of zooms and diopters which struck many cinephiles as somewhat of a call back to older filming techniques. Another stylistic departure from what many consider to be standard in the filming industry was the lack of a steady camera on set, with the directors opting to use tracks instead: "I have nothing against it; it's an interesting tool. But for this film, we wanted to move the camera using only tracks. By the end of the shoot, the gaffer said we had laid down 1,300 meters of tracks for this film, in eight and a half weeks' shoot."[15]


On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, Bacurau holds an approval rating of 93% based on 165 reviews, with an average rating of 7.7/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Formally thrilling and narratively daring, Bacurau draws on modern Brazilian sociopolitical concerns to deliver a hard-hitting, genre-blurring drama."[16] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 82 out of 100, based on 25 critics, indicating "Universal acclaim".[17]

Barry Hertz of The Globe and Mail gave Bacurau a favorable review, saying it was a "fiery anti-colonialism polemic with so much on its mind that you'll likely come out of it feeling as dazed as the titular village's people,"[18] while Monica Castillo of praised its "twists and turns."[19] Additionally, Bacurau received the 'critic's pick' of The New York Times in March 2020, and was described as "engimatic, exhilarating, and otherworldly".[20] David Friend of The Canadian Press highlighted Udo Kier's performance saying it was "one of his best villainous roles."[21]


It was released by Vitrine Filmes in Brazil and SBS Distribution in France. Its North American release was interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, prompting the distributor Kino-Lorber to seek alternate means. It created a "virtual cinema" distribution model in which it partnered with some 150 independent theaters in North America. The first run of the film streams in an exclusive limited release window through the theaters' websites. Kino-Lorber shares the revenues with the theaters.[7]


  1. ^ Pécora -, Luísa (27 August 2019). "Emilie Lesclaux fala sobre 'Bacurau' e cinema brasileiro: 'É mais fácil destruir' | Mulher no Cinema".
  2. ^ "Bacurau". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 14 December 2020.
  3. ^ "Bacurau first look: a way out weird western for menacing times". British Film Institute. Archived from the original on 17 May 2019. Retrieved 21 May 2016.
  4. ^ "The Screenings Guide 2019". 9 May 2019. Retrieved 9 May 2019.
  5. ^ "Bacurau". Cineuropa. Retrieved 31 December 2019.
  6. ^ Barlow, Helen (6 June 2019). "'Bacurau' Filmmakers on Pulling Inspiration from Brazil's Broken System | Cannes 2019". Collider. Retrieved 31 December 2019.
  7. ^ a b Bramesco, Charles (30 March 2020). ""Virtual cinemas" aim to take US arthouse theaters online – and into the future". Little White Lies. TCOLondon Publishing. Retrieved 2 April 2020.
  8. ^ "Interview: Kleber Mendonça Filho and Juliano Dornelles on Bacurau's Politics". Slant Magazine. 12 March 2020. Retrieved 24 May 2021.
  9. ^ "Cannes festival 2019: full list of films". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 April 2019.
  10. ^ "Bong Joon-ho's Parasite Wins the Palme d'Or at Cannes". Variety. 25 May 2019. Retrieved 26 May 2019.
  11. ^ Pulver, Andrew (25 May 2019). "Bong Joon-ho's Parasite wins Palme d'Or at Cannes film festival". The Guardian. Retrieved 26 May 2019.
  12. ^ "Sessão especial de 'Bacurau' em Parelhas emociona moradores da cidade". G1 (in Portuguese). 23 August 2019. Retrieved 12 September 2019.
  13. ^ a b c Cunningham, James (4 October 2019). "Behind the Scenes on Bacurau". Australian Cinematographer. Retrieved 6 December 2021.
  14. ^ Cunningham, James (4 October 2019). "Behind the Scenes on Bacurau". Australian Cinematographer. Retrieved 7 December 2021.
  15. ^ a b c "How Split Diopter and Cinemascope Made the Weirdest Western You'll Ever See". No Film School. 26 September 2019. Retrieved 8 December 2021.
  16. ^ "Nighthawk (2019)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved 10 October 2021.
  17. ^ "Bacurau Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 8 April 2020.
  18. ^ "Review: The wild, genre-hopping Bacurau's innovative digital release may be the lifeline indie cinemas need right now". Retrieved 2 September 2020.
  19. ^ Castillo, Monica. "Bacurau movie review & film summary (2020) | Roger Ebert". Retrieved 2 September 2020.
  20. ^ Dargis, Manohla (5 March 2020). "'Bacurau' Review: Life and Death in a Small Brazilian Town". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 8 December 2021.
  21. ^ Friend, David (14 September 2019). "Six stellar films that flew under the radar at the Toronto International Film Festival". CityNews/The Canadian Press. Retrieved 2 September 2020.