BEHIND THE SUN takes place in 1910, in the small town of Stream-of-Souls, Brazil, where two families have been engaged in a long battle for control of what appears to be nearly barren land. The Breves clan–mother, father, 20-year-old Tonio, and little Pacu (called the kid), are a poor family struggling to make it with their small sugarcane mill that has outlived its usefulness. In front of their house, a bloodied shirt swings in the breeze, the sun slowly fading the red stain surrounding a hole. When the bloodstain turns yellow, Tonio sets out to hunt down the Ferreira brother who killed the eldest Breves child, Inacio. The chase scene through the forest is stunningly shot by cinematographer Waler Carvalho. After Tonio accomplishes his mission, it becomes his turn to wait for the bloodied Ferreira shirt to turn yellow, after which the next-in-line Ferreira brother will come after him.
Walter Salles, whose previous film was the touching CENTRAL STATION, has brilliantly adapted Ismail Kadare’s book BROKEN APRIL, moving the blood feud to Brazil from Albania. The futility of the family battle is made clear through beautiful shots of the vast desert landscape that physically separates the two families as their next generation perishes one by one. Rodrigo Santoro, a captivating cross between Keanu Reeves and Edward Burns, is excellent as Tonio, who tries to seek peace and love before his time is up, but the film belongs to young Ravi Ramos Vasconcelos, who, as Pacu–the kid–narrates the film and is the centerpoint of the story. It is through his eyes that the story is told, and the result is both magnificent and horrific.