The showcase of Breaking Rio is the character study of both Naama and Fabio. Both boys, while reserved when interviewed throughout the film make for very interesting subjects. What helps this is the difference between both in their personalities. One is extroverted, while the other is an introvert and afraid of the other. They also have a very bizarre relationship with one another. They constantly hang out with each other and surf with each other, but at the same time it doesnâ€™t come off as a friendship per say. When Fabio is missing, Naama doesnâ€™t seem to care about his whereabouts or even if heâ€™s alive. Instead, he states how itâ€™s preferable to surf alone. Fabio on the other hand is a completely self-centered kid. Throughout the film it seems as if his only real motivation to hanging out with Naama is to pick on him. Despite these character flaws though, both are extremely likable and you really learn to feel sympathetic in terms of their situation and hoping they stay away from the drug world.
On top of the character study, it is interesting to learn the ways of the drug gangs in Rio. For instance, there are two gangs and if one impedes on the otherâ€™s territory there will be a shoot out, but if the police show up in their territory, they will choose to shoot the police instead of each other. It also is mentioned that this gang warfare takes place in the hillside part of the area, which so happens to be the place where Naama, Fabio and the rest of the surfers live. Whatâ€™s mind boggling though is the statistic featured in the film that the drug trade â€œemploysâ€ approximately 100,000 people and in turn is the largest industry in Rio. Needless to say, Rio is a very dangerous place, but the idea of the surfing teachers trying to get kids involved in surfing to save them from the drug trade is profound and engaging.
Unfortunately, the film isnâ€™t perfect. While there is a great focus on the main two boys and the drug trade, it does a pretty poor job in developing the other locals in the film. They briefly touch on the teachers who mostly serve shop for boards for those who participate in surfing. You know they want to help the kids; however, at the same time you donâ€™t really know their background and why they want to help. They briefly touch on a couple of female surfers and Picachu, who serves as the third friend with Naama and Fabio, but you canâ€™t fully get a good read on any of these kidsâ€™ character. They also briefly mention Simao Rimau, who supposedly is a professional surfer who is from the area, but they barely even talk about him. Youâ€™d think that theyâ€™d focus more on Rimau considering he is a surfer from the area who has made it and to juxtapose it to these kids, but thye don’t. The last person mentioned of any importance is Rogerio who eventually challenges Fabio to a surfing competition. This I felt couldâ€™ve been the climax to the film. It shouldâ€™ve been built up but they only focus on it for about 10 minutes or less.
At the end of the day, itâ€™s almost as if Mitchell chose to feature these other mini sections of the film just in order for it to be considered a feature, and in turn it just feels a bit sloppy. It would even be one thing if the film was getting on the long end of things, but it only is about 80 minutes. Generally I feel films are too long for what they are, but in this case he couldâ€™ve focused on other important aspects for about 20 minutes or so. Either that or just not included these extra elements at all and feature more scenes with Naama and Fabio.
The cinematography on the other hand is phenomenal. Some of the landscape shots are breathtaking, and the b-roll of the surfers doing their thing is even more incredible if you consider the risk it is filming near and under water, not to mention the risk of getting hit. It is truly phenomenal stuff even for a so-called â€œsurfingâ€ film.
Overall, if you want to see a great documentary film, I suggest giving Rio Breaks a chance. You do not have to be a surfing fan to enjoy it as it is more a character study on the children of Rio de Janeiro and the drug trafficking more than it is about surfing. The only fault to the film is that there are numerous directions Mitchell takes us that are completely unnecessary and undeveloped, which in the end just comes off sloppy. However, 80 percent or more of the film is featured on Naama and Fabio, which ultimately is the selling point of intrigue for the film.