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Chapter 9

Paul Leduc Reads Rubem Fonseca:

The Globalization of Violence or
The Violence of Globalization

T he only contemporary Mexican filmmaker who features promi-

nently in Cinema de Lágrimas is Paul Leduc (1942). In 2006 Leduc
would reciprocate Nelson Pereira dos Santos and make a “Brazilian”
movie: an adaptation of a series of short stories by Rubem Fonseca
called El Cobrador—In God We Trust. The appearance of the name
Leduc in Cinema de Lágrimas is not accidental nor a whimsical
choice on the part of Nelson Pereira dos Santos. The initial strategy
in this chapter is parallel to the one I used in the previous chapter:
we shall go through three important films by Leduc to understand
El Cobrador within the context of Leduc’s works and particular inter-
ests. Paul Leduc is the director of three hallmarks of post–Golden Age
Mexican cinema: Reed: Mexico Insurgente (1971), Frida, Naturaleza
Viva (1984), and ¿Como Ves? (1986).
Leduc’s debut was Reed: Mexico Insurgente, an independent film
(made entirely outside the government-sponsored Mexican film
council) featured in the Cannes and Berlin festivals. Based on the
journalist John Reed’s 1914 Insurgent Mexico, a firsthand account of
the events in Mexico that focused as much attention on the myth of
Pancho Villa as on the common soldiers of the Mexican Revolution
and the chaotic, unglamorous realities of battle, Leduc’s film is the
first, major post-1968 film about the Mexican Revolution. Reed:
Mexico Insurgente is about the political awakening of John Reed in
his direct contact with the revolution, but it also “demystifies the
revolution, blending documentary and fictional elements in a manner
that is consistent with the aesthetic and political strategies” (Pick,

P. Moreira, Literary and Cultural Relations between Brazil and Mexico

© Paulo Moreira 2013
132 L I T E R A R Y A N D C U LT U R A L R E L AT I O N S

9) of the New Latin American Cinema in which Nelson Pereira dos

Santos played a prominent role.
In 1984 Leduc released Frida, Naturaleza Viva, a remarkable
biopic that coincided with the reemergence of the painter Frida Kahlo
but went contrary to the tendency of this revival of stripping Kahlo
from her active engagement in Mexico’s social and political life. The
film also searched for a language fully compatible with the artist it
depicts, shunning a linear narrative and keeping dialogue to a mini-
mum in a series of almost independent segments that rely much on
Kahlo’s own paintings and sensibility.1 The film’s whimsical iconog-
raphy and sharp contrasts of monochromatic colors builds a mise-
en-scène that anticipates Leduc’s exploration of the baroque in his
Barroco (1989).
In 1986 Leduc directed another, less known landmark: ¿Cómo
Ves?, an unadorned look at the underground culture that thrived on
the outskirts of Mexico City and the city’s punk-rock scene. Leduc
and José Joaquín Blanco wrote the screenplay based on texts such
as crónicas and newspaper pieces by writers such as José Agust ín and
José Revueltas that focused on the youth in Mexico City. Leduc pro-
vocatively dedicates ¿Cómo Ves? to the IMF, and the film focuses on
the desperation of Mexican youth as the country’s poor suffered with
recession and inflation amidst periodical financial crises and cuts in
social services during the years Latin Americans would later call “the
lost decade.” As the twentieth century came to an end, the illusions
about Latin American modernization were dissipated and the result
was described in a review of ¿Cómo Ves? as “a modernity that seems
primitive: it is apocalyptic” (Ronquillo).2
In spite of a successful career that made many consider him the
most prominent director of his generation, Paul Leduc announced his
retirement from the cinema in 1993. In one of the interviews of that
period Leduc said,

Cinema, as we conceived of it and as we dreamed of it for the last hun-

dred years, is over. What made me want to make movies was the chance
to work as a team, where everyone shared and believed in the same
ideas. ( . . . ) Our films, produced outside Hollywood, circulate only in
festivals and among friends. They have no public and they don’t pay off
anymore. (Caetano, 196)3

Leduc’s pessimism about the viability of commercial Latin American

cinema is the result of his own troubles with the financing and distri-
bution of his films after years of acclaim in critical circles in Mexico
PAU L L E D U C R E A D S R U B E M F O N S E C A 133

and abroad, and is perfectly in tune with the difficult times Latin
American cinema faced then. The 1990s saw the encroachment of
an already dominant Hollywood practically all over the world, gain-
ing further ground from embattled local industries. The mood at
the time was not different in Brazil after the traumatic extinction of
Embrafilme [Empresa Brasileira de Filmes] by Fernando Collor de
Mello brought film production to a complete halt.4
However, just as, once again, Brazilian cinema rose from the ashes,
Leduc changed his mind about quitting making movies; and he claimed
to have done so because of Brazilian writer Rubem Fonseca. In 1999
Leduc bought the rights to Fonseca’s short stories and embarked
on an ambitious project that took him seven years to complete. El
Cobrador—In God We Trust features locations, actors, and produc-
tion crews from four different countries of the Americas (Argentina,
Brazil, Mexico, and the United States) and a multinational network of
sponsors and producers from both sides of the Atlantic—again some-
thing typical of twenty-first century Latin American cinema.
Leduc considered “odd and actually a bit depressing” (Portal)5
that several interviewers began their conversations with him by ask-
ing about how he got to know Rubem Fonseca’s work. The fact that
Leduc became acquainted with Rubem Fonseca’s work is not an
expression of this Mexican director’s interest in all things Brazilian,
nor a felicitous accident. Practically all of Fonseca’s works have been
widely available in Mexico now for quite some time. The Mexican
publisher Ediciones Cal y Arena6 has translated no less than 18 of
Fonseca’s books since 1990,7 most of them by Rodolfo Mata, profes-
sor at UNAM’s prestigious Instituto de Investigaciones Filológicas,
who has done an invaluable service in promoting Brazilian literature
in Mexico.8
Furthermore, Rubem Fonseca’s prominence in Mexico was con-
solidated when he won the prestigious Juan Rulfo Prize of Latin
American and Caribbean Literature in 2003. The critic Julio Ortega
at the time wrote a small presentation in which he compliments
Fonseca for his capacity for powerful concision and calls him no less
than “el Rulfo brasileño” (Ortega, 14). The publication celebrat-
ing Fonseca for the prize also publicized in Spanish words of praise,
which Mario Vargas Llosa included in a review of Fonseca’s novel
High Art in The New York Times Book Review. In this review Vargas
Llosa compares Fonseca to Umberto Eco and Manuel Puig claiming
that the Brazilian writer “is one of those contemporary writers who
have absconded from the library to create high-quality literature with
materials and techniques stolen from mass culture” (Vargas Llosa).
134 L I T E R A R Y A N D C U LT U R A L R E L AT I O N S

But what was it in Fonseca’s short stories that captured Leduc’s

interest and motivated him to work on a full-feature film? First of all,
it is important to clarify my own view of the relationship between lit-
erature and cinema in film adaptations. Instead of framing film adap-
tations as intersemiotic translations, I would rather think of them as
a peculiar form of interpretation. Film adaptations are not bound by
the literary texts on which they are based in the same way transla-
tions are. As much as translations can be thought of as re-creations,
they are not ordinarily granted nearly the same freedom as the aver-
age film adaptation. Furthermore, criticism based on notions such as
source and derivative is bound to offer predictable results: comments
on the “missing” parts from the original in the adaptation. Just as
Nelson Pereira dos Santos interpreted Silvia Oroz’s book in light of
his own ideas about the Mexican melodrama, Leduc interpreted sev-
eral short stories by Fonseca in El Cobrador.
This is how Paul Leduc explains the process of adapting Fonseca’s

I offered Rubem Fonseca the chance to participate in the making

of the script, but he preferred not to. He gave me total freedom to
adapt his short stories. I gave the stories different political coordinates
and national contexts because I didn’t want to simply transpose the
text into images, but rather voice my own concerns through them. I
think there is no meaning in adapting a literary text if not in this way.
However, this by no means implies that I was not faithful to Fonseca’s
work and I believe that is how he perceived it, too. I do not think that
there is any meaning in working from a literary text just to betray what
it had to say. (Portal)9

What are the specific “concerns” to which Leduc alludes in the passage
above? In an interview for the newspaper La Jornada Leduc summa-
rizes them as the need to understand the “the globalization of violence
generated by the violence of globalization.”10 A perverse combination
of the erosion of the achievements of a hundred years of labor move-
ments and others forms of social protest, coupled with the worsening
of already precarious living conditions and staggering social disparities
with the expansion of global capitalism to the far reaches of the globe,
produces what Leduc defines as the core of what Fonseca showcases in
his stories: the existence of a “social resentment that has been roaming
around the world, that finds no legitimate outlet and is channeled by
violence” (“Exhiben Mexicanos sus Filmes en España”).11
With these specific concerns in mind—concerns that he sees
articulated in interesting and incisive ways in the literature of Rubem
PAU L L E D U C R E A D S R U B E M F O N S E C A 135

Fonseca—Paul Leduc builds El Cobrador—In God We Trust by weav-

ing together the following five short stories: “Night Drive 1 & 2”
[Paseio Noturno 1 & 2] from Feliz Ano Novo (1975), “The Taker”
[O Cobrador] from O Cobrador (1979), “Placebo” from Buraco na
Parede (1994), and “City of God” [Cidade de Deus] from Historias
de Amor (1997) (this being a story with no relation to Paulo Lins’s
novel nor to Fernando Meirelles’s film). One could see this adaptation
as the result of gathering together a small anthology of five pieces and
shaping them into one whole—something we would call in literary
terms a novel. It is worth going into the specifics of this process of
creative interpretation to understand Leduc’s film, Fonseca’s stories,
and their relation to each other a little better.
The title indicates the centrality of the nameless character I will
call el cobrador (a wordless part played with great intensity by the
Brazilian actor Lázaro Ramos) and his partner in love and in crime,
Ana (played by the Argentinian Antonella Costa, the star in what
is perhaps the best Argentinian film about the country’s dictator-
ship, Mauro Bechis’s Garage Olimpo). However, two other characters
based on Fonseca’s stories are equally prominent in the film: a man
referred in the credits as Mr. X (played by the American actor Peter
Fonda) and Zinho (played by the Brazilian actor Milton Gonçalves).
El cobrador travels to New York, Mexico City, and Brazil, exact-
ing ruthless revenge against everyone who he feels owes him for his
troubles in the world. He meets Ana, an Argentinian journalist living
in Mexico, just as she is seen struggling with the fact that the man
she thought was her father had killed her real parents and adopted
her, taking advantage of the fact that he was a member of the large
repressive apparatus of the military regime that terrorized Argentina
since 1976, with its sinister Proceso de Reorganización Nacional. They
start a torrid love affair and she joins him in his vigilante streak of
murders to exact revenge against a powerful figure in Mexico who
had caused the death of a militant friend during a protest. The couple
then escapes Mexico and arrives in Brazil, where they perform their
most spectacular act before returning to New York in search of the
powerful Mr. X. This is more or less a reenactment of the short story
“The Taker,” one of the most brutal of Fonseca’s notoriously violent
stories, except for its internationalist flavor.
Fonda’s Mr. X is a very wealthy businessman, based on two dif-
ferent character protagonists from “Night Drive 1” and “Night
Drive 2” (stories that feature the same narrator-protagonist) and
“Placebo.” Mr. X is first seen in Miami, where he does pretty much
what Fonseca’s unnamed narrator does in “Night Drive”: he relieves
136 L I T E R A R Y A N D C U LT U R A L R E L AT I O N S

his frustration with work and his feeling of alienation from his own
family by becoming an unpunished serial killer behind the wheel of
his sleek car. In Fonseca’s story, the unnamed narrator drives his pow-
erful sports car around deserted streets of Rio de Janeiro every night
until he finds a woman he runs over; in Leduc’s film, Mr. X runs
over Hispanic women he finds in the streets of Miami with a big,
shiny SUV. But that is not all there is to Mr. X; he also suffers from a
debilitating disease—as does the protagonist in “Placebo”—and that
takes him, later in the film, to a trip to Buenos Aires. He is desper-
ately in search of a cure and reluctantly follows the guidance of a
sardonic gypsy played by the veteran Mexican indie star Isela Vega,
who takes him to a dubious witch doctor with extremely unortho-
dox means. These are roughly the bare bones of Fonseca’s “Placebo,”
which nevertheless takes place entirely in Brazil and features the CEO
of a multinational.12
A third strand in the film focuses on Zinho, a ruthless drug lord of
Cidade de Deus and the dweller of a fancy condo in Barra da Tijuca,
who becomes the involuntary tool of his lover’s horrific revenge
against her true love in “City of God.” Not only does Leduc move
Zinho away from Rio de Janeiro but he also adds a completely new
dimension to this character. Leduc’s Zinho becomes a curious adap-
tation of an infamous real-life figure: Sebastião Rodrigues de Moura,
a.k.a Coronel Curió, a member of the army forces sent to the central
north of Brazil to hunt down guerilla fighters in Araguaia in the
1970s who later became the quasi-official ruler of the gold mines in
Serra Pelada.13 We eventually realize that el cobrador had worked in
the mine under the ruthless supervision of Zinho, who led an impla-
cable repression of a botched attempt at rebellion in which el cobrador
This important addition to the character created by Fonseca high-
lights the focal point that makes all these three strands coalesce into
one big mosaic of globalized violence and the globalization of vio-
lence in the Americas. El Cobrador—In God We Trust disperses the
action of these stories throughout the Americas, originally revealing
many different facets of the city of Rio de Janeiro. Rubem Fonseca
takes us everywhere in Rio: from Avenida Atlâ ntica and Vieira Souto
to the projects at Cruzada de São Sebastião in Leblon, from Cidade
de Deus in Zona Oeste to the nouveaux riches of Barra da Tijuca,
from a bustling Cinelâ ndia teeming with seedy types to a mislead-
ingly tranquil Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas, and so on. Paul Leduc’s
film moves deftly in consecutive sections—separated by black screens
with indicative subtitles—set in the streets of large, paradigmatic
PAU L L E D U C R E A D S R U B E M F O N S E C A 137

cities of the Americas: New York City and Miami, Mexico City, Rio
de Janeiro, and Buenos Aires (the film has a final section that takes
us back to New York). But it is in Leduc’s version of a Serra Pelada —
actually filmed in one of the many open mine pits around Belo
Horizonte—that we find the point of convergence of all the stories
and their characters. L ázaro Ramos’s el cobrador used to work at the
mines, Milton Gonçalves’s Zinho (as I mentioned before) ruled over
them, and Peter Fonda’s Mr. X owns them. Although images from
the mine appear since the film’s opening, all these aforementioned
links are unveiled slowly as the film advances. For instance, it is only
in the final third of the film that we see Mr. X barking orders over
the phone to shut down the no longer profitable mines regardless of
protests or complaints, because his investment group—that also has
ties with Mexico—is not into gold anymore; they are now focused
on oil and energy.
The film shifts back and forth from two distinct moments in the
history of the mines. Representing the past, when the mine was work-
ing at full speed, there are several short scenes, alternating close and
panoramic takes, which are strict cinematic renderings of the famous
photographs by the Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado, show-
ing swarms of men covered in dust and mud, carrying heavy sacks of
gravel out of the pit up the steep walls. In some of them a taciturn
Zinho appears clad in military uniform and surrounded by soldiers
clutching assault rifles. In others el cobrador appears as one of the
miners and a silent conspirator preparing an uprising, which Zinho
stifles before it begins. Representing the present, when the mines have
become an eerie, abandoned wasteland, there is an almost deserted
bar where a few souls drink. There is also a series of aerial shots as
a deranged helicopter pilot—played by the legendary director Ruy
Guerra—describes the place as being 15 times the size of France and
belonging to Americans who want everything turned into either dust
or gold. This pilot is bringing Zinho back, now with an American
police officer, involved in a hunt for el cobrador because of the mur-
ders he had committed in New York.
It took Leduc seven years to finish his adaptation, and he has sug-
gested that his travails this time were not due only to the usual dif-
ficulties in financing independent Latin American films. Aggravating
Leduc’s troubles, this film became extremely polemical after 9/11.
After all, even the protagonist of Fonseca’s “O Cobrador” is already
a kind of nihilistic terrorist, who, after a series of gruesome and fairly
random murders, announces his future plans to blow up a Christmas
party where all the jet set of Rio de Janeiro is supposed to meet.
138 L I T E R A R Y A N D C U LT U R A L R E L AT I O N S

Leduc turns him into an international terrorist who has a global reach
and a target comfortably established in the United States.
Fonseca’s short story that lends its title to the film—and, to a cer-
tain extent, the book that contains it—was a daring rebuke of the
military dictatorship censors who had banned his former short-story
collection, Feliz Ano Novo —which contained “Night Drive.” The
ban on Feliz Ano Novo, imposed 13 months after its publication in
1975, would last 13 years and involve a long legal battle. Estado de São
Paulo’s columnist Sérgio Augusto recently retold the story to com-
memorate the 35th anniversary of the ban, which he called “the most
talked-about literary-judicial scandal of the military regime.”14
In their official statement, the censors declared that the book

in almost its entirety characters who have complexes, vices, and perver-
sions, with the aim of focusing on the dark side of society in the per-
petration of bad behavior, bribes, assault and murder, without any sign
of disapproval, utilizing very lowly language and where pornography is
largely employed with quick derogative allusions to those responsible
for the future of Brazil and the work of censors. (Augusto)15

The moralistic reproach to the book’s foul language and pornogra-

phy is typical of the hypocrisy of the military regime at times when
the pornochanchadas [nonexplicit pornographic comedies] produced
in São Paulo’s Boca do Lixo thrived, but the censors point to an
important aspect of those stories, an aspect that would in fact be
further exacerbated by Fonseca in “O Cobrador”: the lack of any
hint of condemnation on the part of Fonseca’s narrative voices of any
of the gruesome acts perpetrated by his characters, even in stories
where what we could call an editorial voice is clearly heard, such as
“Intestino Grosso” [Large Intestine], which is an interview with an
unnamed writer accused of more or less the same charges leveled
against Fonseca by the censors.
Disturbing as it indeed is, I by no means want to voice a moralis-
tic concern about Fonseca’s literary violence. The stories selected by
Leduc are interesting, among other things, precisely because they are
disquieting in their unmediated violence, and the lack of rhetorical
signs of condemnation of these acts is an important piece of Fonseca’s
strategy to enhance their impact. Fonseca’s fictional violence ignores
the conventions of self-ironizing postmodern horror and manages to
go beyond the sadomasochistic play of “terror put into an accom-
plished enough artistic form,” which “becomes enjoyable, and so self-
contradictory” (Eagleton, 20).
PAU L L E D U C R E A D S R U B E M F O N S E C A 139

These stories have also been considered somehow prophetical by

highlighting urban violence long before this topic replaced inflation
as the main concern of Brazilians in general. After a trip to Sarajevo,
where a screening of the landmark documentary Notícias de uma
Guerra Particular, which he directed with K átia Lund, caused a
deep impression in a young audience from a deeply scarred city in the
aftermath of a brutal war, João Moreira Salles summarized the tragic
situation of the urban centers in Brazil as thus:

From April 1992 to November 1994, 11,600 people died in Sarajevo.

In the same period 13,000 people died violent deaths in the city of Rio
de Janeiro, almost 2,000 more than in a city in a state of war. (84)16

Besides the staggering number of deaths, a sad reality Mexico has

had to face as well in its ill-fated war on the drug cartels or in the sys-
tematic murders of women in Ciudad Juárez, Walter Salles’s brother
emphasizes the challenge of facing “a solitary violence, encapsulated
in itself ( . . . ) an individualized, decentralized violence devoid of uto-
pias,” the result perhaps of “the hegemony of the marketplace, where
the nonmeasurable dimension of dreams loses importance” (Salles).
Moreira Salles also highlights the invisibility of most of the victims
of this violence, poor people born in the Zona Oeste, on the “wrong
side” of the Rebouças tunnel, but still wonders about the roots of
such violence:

For all those reasons I suspect Brazil is facing a new phenomenon, yet
to be explained. One understands the violence in Sarajevo, in Israel,
in Colombia. Brazilian violence, whose exemplary manifestation takes
place in the streets of Rio de Janeiro, is still something unknown. I
don’t think there is an adequate theoretical apparatus to understand
this phenomenon.17

Fonseca’s fiction is remarkable not only because it foretells this

crisis, but because it looks for answers to the questions João Moreira
Salles raises, the questions voiced in the song by Tom Zé and Gilberto
Assis that opens and closes Leduc’s film: “Quem é que tá botando
dinamite na cabeça do século?” [Who’s planting dynamite inside the
head of the century?].18 One only has to turn to a single passage of
“Feliz Ano Novo” to understand what I mean. Hidden in Cruzada de
São Sebastião —a housing project built in the 1950s under the inspira-
tion of the Catholic Church with the aim of solving the housing crisis
that originated and encroached the favelas of the city and the place
where the protagonist of Fonseca’s “O Cobrador” buys his Magnum
140 L I T E R A R Y A N D C U LT U R A L R E L AT I O N S

and then executes a man driving a fancy car who honks at him—the
escaped criminals Zequinha and Pereba explain:

To tell the truth, time is running against me, too, said Zequinha. The
cops are playing rough. See what they did to Home Boy? Sixteen bul-
lets in his head. They grabbed Vevé and wrung his neck. And Minhoca,
shit! Minhoca! We grew up together in Caxias and he couldn’t see
a thing more than ten feet away and he stuttered a little too—they
grabbed him and threw him into the Guandu River, all busted up.
It was worse what they did to Tripé. They burned him. He turned
into pork rinds. The cops are not taking it easy, said Pereba.19

What we have in the passage above is a concise list of the methods

of the infamous Death Squads that the military regime either toler-
ated or openly sponsored. If you add the stark contrast between the
hungry, frustrated criminals in a decrepit flat and the opulence of
the festivities of the end of the year in a São Conrado mansion you
have, in a nutshell, without any trace of didacticism, the dynamite
that was planted in the urban areas of Brazil in the 1960s and 1970s
and exploded in the 1990s.
This sort of laconic critical acumen that Fonseca applies to the
post-1968 Rio de Janeiro, Leduc transposes to the post-neolib-
eral and post-9/11 Americas with a multinational cast that speaks
English, Portuguese, and Spanish in locations in Argentina, Brazil,
Mexico, and the United States. Paul Leduc is in search of the dyna-
mite that has been placed in the head of the twenty-first century—
and it is significant that the film briefly shows the smoking towers of
the World Trade Center in a small television screen at the bar in Serra
Pelada. In El Cobrador—In God We Trust we catch a glimpse of that
dynamite: the accumulation of staggering wealth and the simulta-
neous expansion of shocking destitution; the relentless drive toward
environmental depredation and ethnic and cultural genocide all over
the globe; and the pitfalls of an increasingly abusive state legitimized
by a travesty of democracy, where the choice lies between two ver-
sions of the same politics. No wonder a last, spectacular explosion
fills the screen till it turns blindingly white, closing Leduc’s adapta-
tion of Fonseca’s literary world with Tom Zé’s voice singing “Defeito
2: Curiosidade,” with its relentless questions about “the head” of the
twenty-first century:

Who’s planting dynamite ( . . . )?

Who’s planting so much lice ( . . . )?
Who’s planting so many bugs ( . . . )20
PAU L L E D U C R E A D S R U B E M F O N S E C A 141

The last, more hopeful stanza in the song wonders “who can get a pil-
low” for the new century. “Defeito 2: Curiosidade” is part of a 1998
conceptual album by the legendary Tropicalista Tom Zé, who calls his
own work “imprensa cantada” [singing press] (Dunn, 217). Since the
late 1960s, Tom Zé has played a dissonant voice in Brazilian popular
music, questioning the national truisms with a sharp satirical voice
that doubted economic development as a panacea to the country’s
problems and a conservative notion of citizenship contained within
private consumption. The album from which “Defeito 2: Curiosidade”
comes from, which is called Defeito de Fabricação/Manufacturing
Defect (1998), is a perfect musical companion to Leduc’s remarkable
reading of Rubem Fonseca. It contains two interesting texts in the
liner notes, one of which is worth quoting at length:

The Third World has a growing population. The large majority

becomes a sort of “android,” almost always illiterate and with little
specialized working skills. ( . . . ) These androids are cheaper than the
factory robots manufactured in Germany and Japan. But they show
some innate “defects,” such as creating, thinking, dancing, dream-
ing; these are dangerous defects to the bosses in the First World. In
their eyes, when we practice such things we are manufacture-defective
androids. Thinking will always be an offense. Having ideas, writing
songs, for instance, is to be bold. On the threshold of History, the idea
of gathering vegetal fibers and creating the art of weaving was a great
audacity. Thinking will always be. (Defeito de Fabricação)21

One of such defects is exemplified in the song Leduc chose to open

and close his adaptation of Fonseca’s short stories. Curiosity is a form
of audacity because it dares to ask for the ones responsible for a misery
that is often attributed to an impersonal and sometimes inscrutable
figure: the market.
The most probable source for Leduc was Alfaguara’s Los Mejores
Relatos de Rubem Fonseca, a 1998 book that contains the four stories
that were chosen by Leduc for his return to the cinema. This anthol-
ogy was translated and edited by Romeo Tello Garrido, who also
translated Davi Arrigucci Jr.’s excellent book about Julio Cortázar, O
Escorpião Encalacrado. Tello Garrido also wrote an interesting pro-
logue, in which the UNAM professor stresses ambiguity as a form
of expression that allows the Brazilian writer to approach the social
and cultural issues from a perspective that is radically different from
the Latin American left-wing tradition of social ventriloquism, in
which artists and intellectuals believe they can and should speak on
behalf of the people and the nation: “while they are not indifferent
142 L I T E R A R Y A N D C U LT U R A L R E L AT I O N S

to the problems of individuals, they do not adopt a didactic posture

when they expose them ( . . . ) willing to parody the reductionist and
Manichean discourse that attempts to explain human and social phe-
nomena in a progressive fashion” (Garrido, 15).22
In El Cobrador—In God We Trust Leduc dares again to do exactly
what Fonseca and Tom Zé have done: to think creatively about vio-
lence from the perspective of Latin America as one of the world’s
wastelands. This perspective is based on a double negation. Faced
with the choice between an apocalyptic and a utopian view of speak-
ing from the margins of globalized capitalism, the film accepts nei-
ther of them. Instead Leduc proposes that we follow Frantz Fanon’s
proposition that “the Third World is not cut off from the rest. Quite
the contrary, it is at the middle of the whirlpool” (The Wretched of
the Earth, 76) and expose, as emphatically as possible, the scandalous
contrast of opulence founded on the blood of modern-day slaves and
on indiscriminate environmental destruction.