Tropa de Elite or The Elite Squad in English, is a Brazilian film released on October 5, 2007. The movie is a semi-fictional account of the BOPE (Portuguese: Batalhão de Operações Policiais Especiais), the Special Police Operations Battalion of the Rio de Janeiro Military Police. It is the second feature film and first fiction film of director José Padilha, who had previously directed the acclaimed documentary Bus 174. The script was based on the book Elite da Tropa by sociologist Luiz Eduardo Soares and two former BOPE captains, André Batista and Rodrigo Pimentel.
The movie, set in 1997, depicts the story of Captain Nascimento (played by famous Brazilian actor Wagner Moura), a BOPE captain, who with the imminent birth of his first child, is determined to leave the battalion and find a safer position for the sake of his family, but first he must find a suitable replacement for himself. At the same time, the movie focuses on two childhood friends, Matias and Neto, who become cadets in the military police, but become dismayed at the corruption surrounding them. Eventually, both Nascimento and the cadets’ paths intersect, when the captain hopes that one of the two may become the substitute he is eager to find, as both decide to join the BOPE.
The book was controversial at the time of release, and reportedly resulted in Batista being reprimanded and censored by the Military Police. The book was controversial in its description of the BOPE as a “killing machine”, as well as detailing an alleged aborted assassination attempt on then-governor Leonel Brizola.
Leaked on the Streets
In August 2007, prior to the movie’s release to theaters, a preliminary cut of the film was leaked and made available for download on the Internet. The cut, which included English title cards but no subtitles, was leaked from the company responsible for subtitling the film, resulting in one person being fired and a criminal investigation. It was estimated that about 11.5 million people had seen the leaked version of the movie in 2007. This constituted a first in Brazilian cinema, as it was the first film to be pirated before its release in the cinema, something that isn’t unheard of in the Western world.
In Boston, I heard the film was being sold by paperboys who hid the film in the newspaper and priced each copy at $10. If you do find it online, it should offer English subtitles or you can go to opensubtitles.com
In terms of Brazilian film piracy in general, Brazil is huge when it comes to how much international (complete with Portuguese subtitles) and national media content is available online to Portuguese speakers.
Tropa de Elite became one of the most popular Brazilian movies in history. According to Data Folha which does statistics, 77% of São Paulo residents knew about the movie. The word of mouth was also extremely good with 80% of the people rating the movie as excellent or good according to the same company. The movie was released in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo on October 5,2007, with a nationwide release on October 12, 2007. Up to now 2.5 million people have seen it at the theaters. In Rio and São Paulo, with no promotion other than billboards, 180,000 people saw the movie during its opening weekend.
The movie was also the cover for three of Brazil’s most important weekly magazines, Veja, Carta Capital and Época. On the beginning of 2008, it was confirmed that Rede Globo will produce a TV series based on the movie, but whether it will come to fruition is unlikely.