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Manda Bala

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Jason Kohn's film about political corruption, economic disparity and endemic crime in contemporary Brazil opens in an unlikely bucolic setting: the country's largest frog farm. But it's the first of the young American filmmaker's clever moves in his vibrant, entertaining and deeply sobering essay. The farm is key to a huge scandal, and also a worthy metaphor for Manda Bala's concerns: the shifting of Brazil's indigenous populations to overcrowded concrete corridors; the aggressive cannibalism spurred by want; the exporting of the country's vast resources; and the reduction of "lower" beings to mere cogs in the amassing of private wealth. Interviews with civil servants, a young businessman, a wealthy woman, a kidnapper and a plastic surgeon are pieces of Kohn's artfully constructed mosaic that depicts a nation so off-balance politically and economically that a new order has evolved: a symbiotic ecology where the rich steal from the poor, the poor steal from the rich, and all live in various states of protracted misery. It's a real-life dystopia where a doctor can grow wealthy specializing in the reconstruction of severed ears -- the preferred ransom note of kidnappers -- and one that should give us all pause. In English, and Portuguese, with subtitles. Starts Fri., Oct. 5. Squirrel Hill (AH)

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