Brazil's suppressed urban slums have gradually wiggled into the hindsight of modern media. With potent films such as the masterful City of God, attention grows keenly focused upon this area. Yvonne Bezerra de Mello, however, has been crusading for this area since shortly after the Candelaria Massacre in 1993. Warrior of Light, an expansive documentary comprised by Monika Treut circa 2000, directs the spotlight onto Yvonne, her cause, and the children that she's saving.
Yvonne Bezerra de Mello has seen and heard things practically unimaginable to many. The wicked life of a child on Brazilian streets implores attention from anyone and everyone to aid in their struggle. She, however, is picking up the slack where many might leave off. Her organization, Project Uere, owns several houses in these dangerous districts, serving as refuge for these unfortunate, potentially disease ridden children. More importantly, not only are these locations shelter, but they are also schools to better develop those in need.
While you'd imagine a woman who works in this environment to be quite strong, Yvonne will thoroughly impress you with her steadfast heart and boiling personality. She's an utterly electric woman, fascinating to listen to and behold. Of course, Yvonne can release stories that'll send chills down your spine. She's had to endure many of the parental activities for these children that might not have families to care for them, like clean their wounds and identify their bodies. However, these children that she helps can rustle up a story or two of their own as well. Warrior of Light highlights Yvonne's strife, but also stays firmly concentrated on the children.
In Treut's documentary, these unfortunate souls feel quite fortunate to hold such a vibrant woman in close esteem. Such strong individuals like Vanessa and Tiago, two of her closer pupils, share such warm personalities that you'd imagine seeing them waltzing around pedestrian areas in much more upscale, safer areas. Project Uere attempts to provide them with a safer environment, but the dangerous reality that Treut safely reminds us of is the fact that there's more chaos to this world beyond the "oasis" Yvonne provides.
Much of this world is captured in grand, beautifully panning shots that sweep across Rio de Janeiro's city side. A sizeable portion of this documentary is spent absorbing the scenery and music of the area, perhaps just a bit too much. Alas, these expansive times between informative and heart-aching bombardment is soothing and, more than likely, necessary for many. Warrior of Light makes certain not to degrade the beauty of the area in an effort to paint this place as the center of dilapidation. This film does, however, make the personal, ramshackle woes of these children's private anguish very apparent.
Yvonne Bezerra de Mallo is an exceeding easy subject to document, purely because of her vast effervescence. Treut, however, gives us a documentary worthy of her name and the country she works so diligently to preserve. It's not a film purely illustrating her thriving cause, however. It's a striking intimate focus upon her life and the love she shares for her pupils. She explicates, in detail, poignant transitions in the classroom, such as the discussion about street slang and how to dissect one word for educational purposes.
A lot of Warrior of Light embodies her strong mind pouring through in an unbridled, beautiful fashion, giving us direct insight into how her fervent mind processes this wary world of hers. Yvonne keeps the world at a real level, while staying at a strict, maternally affectionate poise for her absorbing minds. Her realism and hardcore, tangible strength showcase a true and non-narcissistic prowess. All of her power is harnesses in this comprehensive documentary, from her personal vitality to the life she pumps into the land about her.
New Yorker Video present Warrior of Light in a standard keepcase DVD with a nice foldout chapter listing featuring a great image of one of the more intimately covered children.
Presented in a standard full frame presentation, Warrior of Light appears to have been taken straight from a VHS source. It's fairly muddy, lacking detail, and is overblown in the color department. However, all the colors and necessary details are discernable in the transfer. The landscape, though looking a bit washed out from the source, still sheds a light of beauty on the screen.
Crisp and clean, this Dolby Stereo track accentuates the music and vocal requirements quite adequately. Those two elements share importance with the aural track, with transitioning musical and textual sounds. Everything sounded fine pouring through this stereo track, without any digital blips or inconsistencies. The ensnaring environment has a noticeably tangible feeling about it from the audio presentation.
Other than a Scene Selection, a 24-minute featurette on some of the highlighted children, called Christmas in Uere, is available. It's both heartbreaking and joyous to see the losses and wondrous gains since the conception of this film (but especially wonderful to see one of the favorite, highly featured kids interviewed in candid detail).
Yvonne Bezerra de Mallo's impact on Brazil is one worth the 90 - minute expansive runtime of Warrior of Light. It's a beautiful, encompassing portrait of an equally stunning person worthy of all the rewards the earth can provide for her. Treut's documentary is a bit overlong and a bit too atmospheric, but still a strong achievement. This story itself is one undoubtedly worth enjoying and watching, at least once. Recommended.
Thomas Spurlin, Staff Reviewer -- DVDTalk Reviews | Personal Blog/Site