Isle of Flowers: The greatest Brazilian short film of all time

. May 07, 2019
ilha das flores film

Claiming anything as “the greatest” in its category is a tricky assertion to make. Even more so with the arts. However, when the Brazilian Association of Film Critics (Abraccine) selected “Isle of Flowers” (original title, “Ilha das Flores”) as Brazil’s greatest ever short film, not too many eyebrows were raised among the country’s film buffs.

</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Directed in 1989 by Jorge Furtado, &#8220;Isle of Flowers&#8221; quickly became an unmissable reference in Brazilian cinema and TV after it wowed audiences at its premiere at the Gramado Film Festival. It walked away with a bunch of prizes on its debut, taking Best Short Film, Best Editing, Best Screenplay, and the Critics&#8217; Award, setting the stage for what has been 30 years of unwavering critical acclaim.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Originally pitched as a documentary about the <a href="">waste collection system</a> in the southern state capital of Porto Alegre, &#8220;Isle of Flowers&#8221; turned into a damning indictment of Brazil&#8217;s inequality and the absence of the state, with the final minutes of the film remaining some of the most shocking sequences in <a href="">Brazilian cinema</a>.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The film begins narrating the life of a tomato grower, showing the workings of the economic cycle of producing and purchasing basic goods. It feels like an educational film, teaching the basic pillars of capitalism, with scenes of domestic Brazilian life intertwined with tongue-in-cheek Monty Python-style cut-out animations.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">After tracking the trajectory of a &#8220;rejected&#8221; tomato, Furtado brings the story to Ilha das Flores, a notorious landfill in the city of Porto Alegre, which lends its name to the Portuguese title.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">There, landowners select tomatoes and other waste products which are fit to feed to their pigs. Anything that is left over, impoverished families and children are allowed five minutes each to scavenge for whatever they can find.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The scenes of poor young children, raking around in food that is only fit for compost, eating whatever they can, is the image that stays in the minds of all who have seen &#8220;Isle of Flowers,&#8221; and the raw, sincere portrayal is what has made it the greatest short film in Brazilian history.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Furtado acknowledged how much the purpose of &#8220;Isle of Flowers&#8221; shifted during production, telling G1 that is &#8220;is not a documentary, it is a film of essays, of illustrated texts, part of it is journalistic.&#8221;</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The most notable feat of the film is its pacing, rolling along with the rhythm of a song or poem, and when the tone shifts—from light-hearted to tragic—there is no time for the viewer to pause and assimilate what the film has become. It is as if the viewer is enjoying a swim in the sea, yet suddenly realizes he is drowning and there is nothing to be done. It is enveloping and it is unavoidable.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Furtado&#8217;s purpose of the film is to portray that this injustice follows a logic—which is skewed, yet a logic nonetheless. The beings in the film have a hierarchy, in accordance with their freedoms, their wealth, and their species. By the logic set out by Furtado, the impoverished families are on a rung below pigs. They have no money, and they have no owners, as the narration states. No-one is invested in their well-being, and they have no means to provide for themselves. It is a harsh reality which is as current as ever.  </span></p> <h3 style="text-align: center;">Watch <em>Isle of Flowers</em></h3> <p><iframe src="" width="640" height="427" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe></p> <p><a href="">Ilha das Flores (Island of Flowers)</a> from <a href="">Filipe Bessa</a> on <a href="">Vimeo</a>.</p> <p>

Read the full story NOW!

The Brazilian Report

We are an in-depth content platform about Brazil, made by Brazilians and destined to foreign audiences.

Our content is protected by copyright. Want to republish The Brazilian Report? Email us at