Brazil, 18th Century. The Portuguese colony endures a decline in gold production. A Portuguese minority of corrupt and nepotistic administrators rules over a society formed mostly by African slaves, local Indians and mestizos. Joaquim is an efficient military famous for capturing gold smugglers. He longs to be compensated with a Lieutenant promotion to buy the freedom of a slave he is in love with. But the promotion never comes through. Joaquim despairs. A risky mission to the feared Badlands in search of new mines seems to be the only way to achieve the longed-for promotion. Joaquim returns from the mission with a load of precious stones but his achievement is undervalued. Out of frustration, a revolutionary emerges.