“Socrates” director Alexandre Moratto returns with “7 Prisoners,” a lean and intense moral thriller about a smart kid who finds trouble in São Paulo. The Brazilian hostage film world-premiered to acclaim at the Venice Film Festival and is now set to be released in theaters and on streaming globally from Netflix this November. The streaming giant is eyeing an Oscar push for the film as a strong contender for Best International Feature out of Brazil. Exclusive to IndieWire, watch the trailer for the film below.
Here’s the synopsis courtesy of Netflix:
18-year-old Mateus (Christian Malheiros) hopes to provide a better life for his working-class family in the countryside. Accepting a new job in São Paolo, he is shuttled into the city with a handful of other teenage boys from his town, unaware of what awaits them: exhausting work in a scrapyard and their identity cards seized by a vicious taskmaster and exploiter, Luca (Rodrigo Santoro), who threatens them with the unthinkable if they try to escape. But, as Mateus learns, even the boss has a boss. And if he wants to find a way out, what will he have to become?
Torn from the dark side of today’s economic desperation, “7 Prisoners” is a tense thriller, one that deepens into a masterful study of power, solidarity, and betrayal. Produced by the Oscar-nominated filmmakers Fernando Meirelles (“City of God”) and Ramin Bahrani (“The White Tiger”), the film is the second feature from writer-director Alexandre Moratto (“Sócrates”), who confirms his status as a major new voice of Brazilian cinema.
“I’m very thrilled to collaborate with such a great team: Fernando Meirelles, who I met when I was 14 when I was in high school in São Paulo, who I looked up to and saw that I too could become a Brazilian filmmaker; Ramin Bahrani my mentor of many years; and everybody at Netflix, who believed in this project from day one,” Moratto said. “This film is about the enslavement and trafficking of human beings, where survival often means compromising your own values and principles. In cities and nations everywhere, people are hidden and enslaved and treated as disposable. They are making our shirts, our cell phones, providing our electricity, and more. I hope that this film can give their voices a place to be heard.”
“In addition to dealing with the social issue, the film makes a comment about corruption being an almost inevitable consequence of power. Alex builds this transition with elegance, when we realize the character is already someone else,” Mereilles said.
Out of Venice, IndieWire wrote that the film is “mostly powered by the natural tension of its premise, which is simple and gripping and develops along a linear arc from bad to worse. Moratto’s unfussy but visceral direction chokes every scene with a feeling of the walls closing in on all sides, just as the script he co-wrote with Thayná Mantesso latently emphasizes the lack of choice available to its characters (Luca included, perhaps). [Christian] Malheiros’ performance maintains some of the blankness that’s often implicit to stories about young people reckoning with their agency for the first time, but the actor so vividly embodies the relationship between power and responsibility that his most ruthless choices become doubly agonizing because of the violence they inflict on his own sense of self.”