Leighton Gage lives near São Paulo and writes The Chief Inspector Mario Silva Series, novels featuring the exploits of the Brazilian Federal Police.
Do you know the question asked of more authors, more times, and in more situations, than any other?
It’s this: Where do you get your ideas?
No kidding. Ask any author.
A number of years ago, I was in a bookshop, doing a dual event.
And, sure enough, someone in the audience popped the question.
My fellow author, an old pro, had an answer on the tip of her tongue. She claimed she got all her ideas out of something she called the Author’s Idea Book. And she went on to spin a ludicrous tale, much appreciated by the audience.
I, a newbie and less-prepared, told them I got mine from television newscasts.
That, too, was received with laughter.
But I didn’t mean it to be funny, and I was perplexed.
Until I realized that many readers in America (and this appearance was in America) find it hard to believe that some of the things I write about actually happen.
They think I make them up.
But now, two movies have been produced that show it like it is.
Like it really is.
The movies are Elite Squad and Elite Squad: The Enemy Within. (Portuguese titles: Tropa da Elite I and Tropa da Elite II.)
Both deal with the activities of the BOPE (Batalhão de Operações Policiais Especiais) the Special Operations Battalion of the State of Rio de Janeiro’s Military Police.
The BOPE is an institution that’s absolutely merciless when it comes to dealing with criminals.
And they don’t take bribes.
Those two facts, acting together, make them the only cops the drug gangs of Rio truly fear.
This is their symbol:
Nicknamed the caveiras (skulls), the men of the BOPE also use that word as their war cry.
Have a look at this, the film trailer for Elite Squad, a work based on events that occurred in Rio back in 1997. Please be patient while the video scrolls through the credits. That takes about fifty seconds.
Next, watch some actual news footage, shot on the Morro dos Macacos, a hill upon which one of Rio’s many shantytowns is situated.
The puffs of smoke are hand grenades being used by a drug gang. You can hear one cop warning the others by screaming the word granada (grenade).
This, folks, is real warfare.
Journalists have yet to capture BOPE’s abuse and murder of prisoners.
But José Padilha, the director of the film, has chosen to include such scenes – because, in reality, they happen all the time.
Here’s another trailer, this one for Elite Squad: The Enemy Within:
Fiction vs. Reality vs. Fiction.
And all of them remarkably alike.
You can get a more in depth-look, and absorb more of this very real picture, by renting Elite Squad, now available from Netflix and Blockbuster in the U.S.