A gripping piece of Brazilian exotica, “Hans Staden” presents an Indian village in the year 1550 as seen through the eyes of pic’s titular hero, a young German held prisoner by a tribe for nine months while waiting to be killed and eaten. Based on published accounts by Staden, who survived the ordeal, the story is told as an adventure-drama full of surprises. A good choice for specialized fests, it could find outings on small-screen discovery programs.
While showing respect for the Tupinambas, whose culture and traditions Staden comes to appreciate, pic sidesteps sentimentality by keeping a historical distance from both the dour protag (Carlos Evelyn) and his captors. After the brutal hanging of Hans’ runaway black slave, story follows his capture by the fierce tribe of painted naked cannibals, enemies of the Portuguese colonizers. Initially regarding them as pagan savages, he fights and hunts with them, eventually developing a strong tie with one (Ariana Messias). Lensing, while favoring long shots, does an unusually good job individualizing the well-built, visually fascinating Indians.