“Zornit”, by Marcelo Trigo. A K.A “The best Brazilian Dollar Baby ever made!”

When I think about Brazilian Dollar Babies I wish I had a bunch of them to talk about, because 1) I avoid to talk about my own movie (I am not good at talking myself and my work) and also 2) because I would love to have more versions of my favorite author adapted in my own language and country. As far as I know there are only 5 Brazilian Dollar Babies, one of them in post-production in this year of 2024 and it will probably be the last Brazilian Dollar Baby since the program ended.

When somebody asks me which one is the best Brazilian Dollar Baby, I never answer “mine” and that is not me being modest. I proudly say my movie is the second Brazilian Dollar Baby, but in my modest opinion, “Zornit”, a short movie based upon the short tale “The Ballad of The Flexible Bullet” is the best Brazilian Dollar Baby. Why? I will tell, but if you are in a hurry and want to skip this review I can resume the reasons in a single sentence: Zornit is the best Brazilian Stephen King Dollar Baby because it is a fucking awesome adaption! Are you guys still with me? Great, I have a lot to talk about this Dollar Baby.

I think everybody who reads this review of mine already understands that I do love Dollar Babies. What I haven’t told you guys yet is that if there is one thing I am crazy about in Dollar Babies is when I can watch one of them not made by American filmmakers. Don’ t get me wrong, I love American movies, I grew up watching them and I still watch them and I will keep watching them until the day I die. Here in Brazil we love American movies  and we are very influenced by American culture. So, when I see some Dollar Baby from another country, it automatically catches my attention. And if it is an adaptation not spoken in English it is even better, because I like to hear different languages and different accents in movies. And most important: when I watch a foreign movie I love to see different cultures. That is the beauty of movies, right? We can travel to different places (sometimes worlds) without leaving our town. And I also love Brazilian movies. 

Not just because I am a Brazilian filmmaker too and I know how difficult it is for us to make movies here, but also because Brazil is a huge country, with so many different cultures and accents inside its own borders. And having the chance to watch a Brazilian Dollar Baby from a different state, far away from mine, with a different accent, man, it was so damned good.

My Dollar Baby was the second Brazilian one, Marcello Trigo’s movie was the 3rd. And this is the reason I first talked with Marcello: he came to me to ask some questions about the Dollar Baby Deal and King’s office, although he was already editing his Dollar Baby. We started to talk and he offered me the chance to watch his movie. Marcello doesn’t know this, but he made me so happy when he offered me that. I watched,  it was almost done, and I liked it. And we started to talk about it, he asked my opinion and I gave it to him. I remember that the movie was “too big”, it had 28 or 27 minutes. I told him to try to make it shorter, because in my experience in film festivals as a filmmaker I know that film festivals  usually prefer movies that have between 15 and 20 minutes. He asked me what would I suggest to cut off and I told him. And I thank God Marcello did not hear me.

When I started to point out what I would change, I stopped seeing the movie as an audience and started to see as a filmmaker, the way I would do it. And I can assure you that the best thing Marcello did was not paying too much attention to what I said I would change. Before I started writing this review I did read again my Facebook chat with Marcello and I realized that the things I asked him to cut back are some of the things today I love in the movie. I did not change my mind as a filmmaker, but some of those things he kept in the final cut is like the movie’s soul. Me, as an audience, thank Kubrick. Marcello did not change what me as a filmmaker asked him to. The final cut of “Zornit” was almost 23 minutes, but that did not stand in the way of it getting into so many festivals the way it did. I myself screened this Dollar Baby 3 times so far and I intend to screen at least 19 times more. And now I will finally explain to you guys why.

One of the first things that caught my attention in this Dollar Baby was the director’s choice of turning the original story into a sci-fi movie. In here we don’t see a lucky elf that helps a writer with his new book. In this adaption we see an alien slug called Zornit doing this job. According to Marcello , he did that change for some reasons : first because it would be easier to make an alien slug as a puppet rather than an elf puppet, easier to manipulate. And that choice also explains the other reason: the director’s background and his references. By reading his interview here at SKSM I better understood why Marcello made a sci-fi movie that reminded me so much old TV series: it was because he also grew up watching the same sci-fi TV series I grew up watching, like “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea”, “The Time Tunnel“, “Star Trek” and (his most evident reference at this short movie) “The Twilight Zone“.

The entire adaption does look like an episode of “The Twilight Zone“. It looks like some old TV series, it sounds like and  “smells like” that old TV series. Marcello Trigo embraced the visual language of those old TV shows and I can assure you that it was the best choice he could make to create a unique Stephen King movie.

As I said before, it is really hard to make movies here in Brazil. We don’t have a movie industry like in America, we don’t have big studios and movie executives, we mostly depend on cultural laws that help us to get money from the government. So, independent filmmakers have a hard time making movies here. This was one of the main reasons that made me choose to adapt a drama from Stephen King rather than a horror story, because I was afraid that with my lack of money the visual effects and makeup to create a monster would look fake. Marcello did not have that same fear.

By embracing the visual language of the old TV show , he created a believable and pretty cool alien! An alien slug puppet that we don’t laugh at when we see it. We laugh when it does something funny like asking for more food. But believe in me when I say that when we watch this movie we do believe in that alien.

And it is a damned student movie, for Christ’s sake! They used their talent and imagination to overcome the lack of money they had. And these are the main reasons I consider “Zornit” The best Brazilian Dollar Baby ever made. All that old movie vibe, the visual and practical effects, the sound effects, they work damned well at this movie once we understand the references. For the Brazilian audience it also has old TV commercials that make us smile when it appears on the TV of the main character, it is so fun.

And let’s talk about the characters now. First we see the narrator, the same actor who plays the main character Régis Porto also plays the narrator. At the very beginning of the movie, the narrator appears in the same room his doppelganger is, but wearing a fancy suit. And that is when the old TV references start: it is impossible not to think about Alfred Hitchcock in that old series of his. But let’s get back to the narrator character, a fun fact about him: it was dubbed by the director himself. And the narrator guides us through the story in a way that creates the right mood for us to enjoy the short movie. So, Marcello used his talent as a voice actor, one of the many hats Marcello uses as a professional.

Carlinhos Duarte, plays Régis Porto, the main character and the narrator’s doppelganger, but now without having the director stealing his spotlights (LOL). Carlinhos has a restrained performance in this movie, but in a good way. His partner in the scene, Surete Martins, the actress who plays Régis Porto’s wife, also has a restrained performance. Or maybe that is just my impression, because in my opinion it was hard for both actors to compete with the damned alien. Zornit has personality, has mood, even a cool and creative way to communicate with Régis. Zornit is such a great character! It really steals the spotlight of the main actors. Carlinhos has great moments too, of course, but the alien is so fun and expressive that it is the most remarkable “actor” when it is in any scene.

And there is another non-human character that we also need to talk about: The Android Jehovah’s Witness, played by the great actress Emília Marques. (Yes, there is an android in this movie). Emília plays a small role in this Dollar Baby, but her character is also one that steals the spotlight when she is in a scene. She plays a mysterious Jehovah’s Witness that when she first appears walking on the streets of Recife, he got her spotlights stolen by the graffiti on the wall (they are so beautiful). But once she interacts with the main character and later with Zornit, Emília’s  character grows in importance for the story. And once we understand that she is an Android it is so cool!!! The way her open face reveals a mass of sparks and circuits while the Android was dying is one of the best scenes of the movie. Practical effects in a way that would make Sam Raimi really proud of Marcello’s movie. Pretty good, Marcello (mandou bem pra caralho, Marcello!)

Since I am mostly talking about the visual and practical effects of this Dollar Baby, it is more than fair that I say the names of the professionals that are responsible for such beautiful aspects of this movie: José Vitor and Rosário Gonçalves.

José Vitor was the visual effects technician and I can assure you that he did magic with the lack of money and resources they had. Rosário Gonçalves was the Art Director of the movie and her choices also made the movie become even more beautiful. These two professionals working under Marcello Trigo’s beautiful and creative mind gave the world a really awesome Dollar Baby. Thank you guys for that. (muito obrigado).

The Dollar Baby’s grade? We from SKSM give Marcello Trigo’s “Zornit “5 fingers from the dead guy’s hand. And also one of the alien’s antennae. (don’t you worry, alien fans, Marcello told me the antenna will grow back)

That is it for today,  Constant Readers. See you next time

Leonardo Granado.

You may also like...

2 Responses

  1. Marcelo Trigo says:


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.