Set in the lush rainforest of Brazil, Besouro by director João Daniel Tikhomiroff tells the tale of legendary Besouro Manganga (1897-1924), a Capoeira fighter famous in the 1920s. Like all myths, it begins with young Besouro (Aílton Carmo) studying under his master alongside many others. The name Besouro Manganga means beetle-bumble-bee, which is a rather strange name for a boy, but later proves to be a powerful, spiritual name. Perhaps you remember Mohammad Ali’s famous fight slogan, “I float like a butterfly. I sting like a bee. Now you see me; now you don’t.” Well in this film, that is exactly what happens.
Capoeira is a fighting dance brought by African slaves to South America during colonial times. The fighting dance relates back to the African Zebra dance called NiGolo. It is believed that if one can achieve a certain move sequence, one can then disappear completely like a beetle or a bee flying in the air. Like most great heroes, Manganga has a flaw or shall we say an Achilles heel. Highly competitive, he constantly shows off his skills to the point that he forgets his responsibilities to his master. When the master is killed by cruel plantation owners, Besouro feels shame and guilt and he vanishes into the jungle to grieve. At the same time, the plantation owners step up their control over the slaves by pushing them beyond their limits. Besouro’s teacher returns as a ghost to forgive him and to say that Besouro must master the beetle movement techniques in order to save his people. So, along with fast-beating music and the Brazilian martial-arts style fighting scenes, this film springs out from deep with the jungles with so much emotion that you feel like you are standing right there, sweating away, hoping that this story will end happily.
Capoeira has become a worldwide sport; even in Germany kids at school are learning its sport techniques and musical rhythms. A Capoeira fighter needs to be strong, flexible, and acrobatic along with having endurance since he is constantly in motion. The fight is always done in a “Roda” circle together with fighters and musicians. The two competing fighters are in the middle of the circle while the music sets the rhythm and pace of the fight which gives this sport a special atmosphere. The Brazilian instruments include the Bateria which is a set of drums, Panerues which are tambourines, and Repinique which is a two-headed drum. It also includes the Berimbau, an indigenous string percussion instrument which is a bow with a single string. The percussion instruments included may be the Ganza (a rattle), the Agogo (a gong or a bell) and a Reco neco instrument which has two metal springs which probably sounds a bit like a washboard. Check out YouTube to hear the sound and see the Capoeira fighting dance.