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Rio Breaks Review

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Gifted young surfers, thirteen-year-old Fabio and 12-year-old Naama, live in one of Rio de Janeiro's poorest favalas where Red Command, one of Rio's most heavily armed drug gangs, rule the roost. Only the waves offer a way out of the grinding poverty and a life of crime...

★★★★★

A far cry from the iconic surfing documentaries of Bruce Brown, this is a poignant study of the Rio kids who see breaking waves as the only escape from a short life of crime with a favela drug gang. Justin Mitchell still includes some striking aquatic action, but the focus is firmly on the narrowing options facing 13 year-old Fabio and his younger buddy Naama, as they hone their skills with the Favela Surf Club in the hope of winning a competition and landing a sponsorship deal that will keep them out of the clutches of the infamous Red Command that controls the Pavao neighbourhood that’s nicknamed Vietnam because of the incessant gunfire. The insights into the boys’ home lives are dismaying, as is the picture’s gnawing sense of inevitability.

Don't expect a sun-kissed surf movie: Mitchell's digital camera makes the grim realities of life in Rio's ghettos as ubiquitous as the beaches and pipelines on which the two boys try to escape. A tough but occasionally rewarding watch.

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