Many people are surprised when they find out that Brazil sent an
Expeditionary Force to fight in Europe during World War II — including in Brazil.
This was one of the reasons for producing and directing this documentary.
But it is not the main one.
Brazilian participation in the conflict was modest if compared to that of the
major powers; however, the hardships the soldiers faced were similar to that
of the other combatants on the Western front. And not infrequently they were worse.
Coming from a militarily behind and weak country, the men from “Switchblade” were viewed with suspicion by their allies, and were seen as members of a second-class troop. Their own compatriots expressed such suspicion. At the time, many used to mockingly say that "it would be easier for a snake to smoke than to have Brazil embarking for war." According to some statements, the adoption of a badge depicting a snake smoking would have been an answer to the critics.
However, as a result of the lack of troops in Italy in 1944, after being poorly trained, they were quickly thrown to the front against an experienced enemy. Even worse, they were given rifles that were so outdated that not even the racially segregated North American Divisions would use them as individual standard weaponry. That is why “Switchblade” is also a story of overcoming.
If the Brazilian presence in the conflict is poorly known, much less are the obstacles the battalion members faced during the campaign and after it. So, I emphasized the level of intensity and permanence of the effects of war on the bodies, the minds and the souls of the combatants, as well as its influence on their family and friendship ties: the raw material of the invisible link that binds the veterans together. Despite producing and directing the work, I'm always moved by the power of their statements, telling the different dramas that afflict human beings in war. This is the greatest reason for taking this project forward.
“Switchblade” approaches timeless issues that overcome cultural barriers among peoples. I have the conviction that they are common to all those who have been in a combat zone, regardless of the country they came from. My true desire is to be able to share these stories and reflections with the public, and that this work is able to move and inspire those who watch it as much as it moves and inspires me.
Juiz de Fora, MG - Brazil, June 26, 2016.
Durval Lourenço Pereira