Cidade de Deus

My obsession with the country of Brazil began when I saw the film City of God.  Adapted from the novel of the same title, written by Paulo Lins, it’s the story of a society.  In the 1960’s the Brazilian government began to move the favelas outside of the city, which created the suburb, Cidade de Deus. Brazil moves in retrograde to the United States. White flight created the suburbs, as we know it in the States. The suburbs in the States signified a place at ascend to whereas in Brazil the suburbs were the last stop for the poor before being kicked out of the city completely. Comparing the social structures of Brazil and the States, feels similar to comparing fraternal twins. They are similar in conception, yet have glaring oppositions which makes the two countries unique. Brazil is what America could be if we lost our love of segregation, if white people embraced the possibility that they may in fact have African ancestry, and if black people were encouraged and allowed to “whiten the race” by intermarrying and procreating with whites. If class became the deciding factor as opposed to race, “City of God” could have easily been “The Wire”. But it’s not.

City of God is full of color. The cinematography of César Charlone really captures the spirit of Brazil; a country known for it’s celebration of color. Every shot in the film could stand on it’s own. What I love the most about this film is how it looks. The same could be said about my obsession with the country. I was initially attracted to how it’s aesthetics. Being able to live here has been like finally getting a date with your insanely attractive crush. Yesterday I had the honor of going to the actual Cidade de Deus. It was nothing like what was shown in the film.

My good friend Karmel, who lives in Rio, came with me. We got off and wandered for a while before asking for help. We were told to walk down a road, with a putrid river running through it. The street sign read, “Avenida Cidade de Deus” but instead of the colorful favelas that stack on top of each other and seem to ascend into the sky, we were greeted with high rise apartments.

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I felt like I was in a Juvenile video, straight out of the early 2000’s. Little kids running around, graffiti, litter, music blasting. The faint smell of burning garbage in the air was the only factor reminding me that I was still in South America.

I asked a resident who was passing by if I could ask her a few questions, she said it “depends”. She told me that the apartments were new, about a year and a half old. I was imagining that these new apartments were in the place of the original hill side favelas, that were such a big part of the film. Turns out, that not was the film not actually filmed in Cidade de Dues but these apartments are brand new and for the millions of people still being moved out of the center of Rio. We left after walking around for a while. Aside from the high rise and the pollution, the suburbs had a cozy community feel. Their were lots of little kids out playing and the occasional police car strolling through.

IMG_2604As we were preparing to leave we ran into a woman who started out giving us directions then ended up schooling us on the history of the neighborhood.

The City of God is a highly controversial film in the actual neighborhood. People say the reality was manipulated to make it worse than what it was. We went into the housing project where the actual book was written and talked to a local shop owner who was around during that time. The part that stuck out to me the most, in regards to his critic of the film, was that the stars of the film weren’t all black. He claims many were visibly mixed race, and very light. There are very few explicitly white characters in the film. A film about societal violence featuring a mainly black cast is the norm, but if this wasn’t the truth, why was it recorded as such.

Well, there are a few answers to that. We are normalized to seeing people of darker complexions as, poor, dirty, violent, victimized and aggressive. It’s a tactic used to help put a certain type of people in power, one that we regurgitate today. Walking through Cidade de Deus, I didn’t feel like I was in anymore danger than walking around the west side of Baltimore. However, these are both urban environments full of poor black people. I’m a product of that environment, Cidade de Deus is a similar habitat. I wasn’t surprised at the residents close mouthed responses to my questions, nor was I surprised at our impromptu tour guide and her overwhelming warmth and desire to share her experience with us. Cidade de Deus like my city or any other urban black environment has it’s good and it’s bad. However, due to the people who are in control of images and the way they are shared, we have a very skewed idea of what these places are like.

It was truly an honor to go to this neighborhood and see that it’s doing pretty well. It wasn’t gentrified, it was full of local shops, the kids seemed happy and it was pretty relaxed. When our tour guide asked why I had come, I told her how I fell in love with the country of Brazil because of this film. She was amazed. In retrospect, it speaks to the power of film in my life. I watched a movie in middle school and began to dream about Brazil. Because of this dream I ended up spending close to year in here, I started a blog, drunk Ayahuasca, learned a third language, became an adult…

I watched the film again last night. My view of it has changed since living in Brazil and going to the neighborhood, I see specks of white supremacy, and a strong “othering” of the characters in it now. The images are still beautiful. But for what it’s worth, this one film inspired my epic odyssey. And for that I’ll be forever grateful.

Festival Latinidades Recap Day 4

Saturday was my last day at the Latinidades Festival and the most exciting. Featuring a play area for kids and a fair vending clothing and beauty products especially for black women, the festival felt like a family affair. There was a fashion show and a children’s space showing the cutest Afro Brazilian children’s show.

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I got to interview Karol Conka, my favorite care free black girl rapper. Her song “Voce Nao Vai” was a big part of the reason I decided to start a blog during my time in Brasil. It’s basically like the prelude to “BBHMM”. ANYWAY…she came through the festival and spoke to everyone and was just a Brazilian ray of sunshine. I adored watching the older women fawn over here. Karol is different because she’s genuine in who she is, she’s cute, bubbly adorable and smart. And a great way to start the long process of learning Portuguese.

I finally got to see “Pelo Malo” the film directed by Mariana Rondon, about a young boy who wants to be a singer but believes he needs to straighten his hair to do so. His mother is recently widowed and dealing with the evolving homosexuality she see’s in her son. The film is hypnotizing as it deals with many different social problems through the life of a 8 year old.

After the film I was able to hang out with the ladies of Tela Preta, a film collective from Bahia. We got ready to see Karol Conka headlining at the Parque Cidade. Her show was an epic way to celebrate everything that Latinidades accomplished with this years’ festival. When she bought a group of young black women on stage to dance with her for her song “Gandaia” I cried. It made me so proud to be black, to be a woman, to be happy in my skin, to be a lover of girl culture and what that means. It was a great time. kc6

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Festival Latinidades Recap Day 3

all pictures in the post were taken by Latinidades staff.

Today was full of awesome panels and awesome shorts.

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“As Minas do Rap” directed by Juliana Vicente (the founder of Preta Porte Filmes, who was featured yesterday) spoke about the history and experience of female rappers in Brasil. Given that rap is still pretty young in Brasil, about 30 years, the film was able to got preety deep in a short time. Karol Conka, Tassia Reis and Negra Li were all featured.

“Cinzas, O Filme” directed by Larissa Fulana de Tal, a Salvador native and friend of mine also screened. It’s about the day in the life of a young black student, Toni. I won’t give it all away, as I plan to write a review of it. But it was a crowd favorite.

“Somos Krudas” directed by Mario Troncoso was a surprise favorite of mine. Perhaps it was the English subtitles, or maybe because it was about a queer music making couple from Cuba, but this timely short about the revolution within the revolution within the revolution bought tears to my eyes.

10432120_768191979956801_680096297349160789_n        At the panel discussion, “Aesthetic of the Periphery” I realized that the person with the luscious hair was in fact Rico Dalasam an up and coming queer rapper. He talked about his relationship with the “Periphery” (the favela, the hood, the ghetto, etc) and how it influences who he is. This panel was about the ways alternative images can help show the “Periphery” as more than just a space full of despair and horror.

The film “I love Kuduro” was an illuminating documentary about the Angolian music craze that’s sweeping the world. In this stylish and beautifully composited film we learn the history of Kuduro and how it’s bought a country out of war and into the future.

11224060_768262209949778_527334986708184189_n“Slam Das Pretas” a slam poetry event featuring Afro Latina lesbians from all over Brazil was definitely a crowd pleaser. I could hear the audiences reactions from inside the movie theater.

The night ended with a performance from Tassia Reis. I was introduced to her music in the film “Minas do Rap” that was shown earlier in the day, and was intrigued. She even gave me a hug when I was filming DJ Tamy. Imagine my surprise when I realized that the show that I was to tired to attend, was her show. BLOWN.

In short, yesterday was another great day at Festival Latinidades10410451_768282723281060_278853915898888240_n

Festival Latinidades Recap Day 2

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Today was a day of panel and short films. I woke up too late to see the short film I was eagerly anticipating, “Caixa D’Agua-Qui-Lombo e Esse?” by Everlane Moraes. (Who was recently accepted in the Cuban School of film and is raising money to buy here plane ticket, support her here.) But I was in time to catch an inspiring panel on the Representation of Black Women in Cinema. Juliana Vicente director, producer and founder of “Preta Porte Films” spoke about the importance of black women taking back our image through creating them ourselves. She agreed to speak on camera on what exactly she meant, when she said more black women need to become producers.

“My Name is Now” avaliação filme


traduzido por Davi Nunes

O Filme “Meu nome é agora”, é um documentário dirigido por Elizabete Martins Campos sobre a vida de uma das cantoras mais importante e de voz original que a cultura brasileira já produziu, Elza Soares.

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Elza Soares é samba e ela lembra isso ao mundo em seu novo documentário, “Meu nome é agora”. Elza faz jus à reputação de ser inovadora, usando este doc para falar sobre quem ela é no tempo presente: ao contrário de outros documentários sobre “bad girl”, que relata a trajetória do artista durante toda uma vida, o filme não se concentra na temporalidade dos fatos vividos e marcantes da grande cantora, não é uma lição de vida, não é esse o objetivo.

“Meu nome é agora” se apresenta para o público como um poema visual prolongado, em formato de documentário. É interessante assistir o doc como se fôssemos o espelho de Elza. Ela desvenda tudo. Isto parece ser um forte traço de sua personalidade, ou talvez seja, a transposição brilhante de uma negritude poderosa, explicitada em sua música ou de uma rebeldia constituidora de uma vida grande, latente ainda no agora, no tempo presente.

Momentos memoráveis ​​incluem ver os seus 79 anos, transpostos em um ensaio fotográfico sensual que comprova a sua confiança. Outros incluem olhares demasiado curtos dela como uma criança. Este filme é para os verdadeiros fãs de Elza, assim às vezes como estrangeira eu me senti perdida em certas imagens, como exemplo a polêmica história de amor entre ela o jogador de futebol, Garrincha.

Eu gostaria muito que houvesse um enredo linear para seguir, porque Elza é tão abstrata e difícil de se entender, mas vou admitir que estou intrigada. E a partir de agora vou pesquisar mais sobre ela. De certa forma a história de Elza Soares me fez lembrar, como Norte Americana, (com todas as ressalvas e semelhanças), de Nina Simone. Ambas são mulheres negras geniais, vivendo numa conjuntura social e racial assustadoras

Em conclusão, este filme é uma ótima introdução para a mente mística e filosófica da Deusa, Elza Soares.

“My Name is Now”

directed by Elizabete Martins Campos
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Elza Soares is samba and she reminds the world in her new documentary, “My Name is Now”.
Elza lives up to her reputation of being groundbreaking by using this doc to talk about who she is now as opposed to she was she was. Unlike other documentaries on bad girl singers whose time has passed, we don’t focus on the life she’s lived, nor is this a history lesson in what she’s done. Our role as the audience in this extended visual poem of a documentary  is interesting, we get to be Elza’s mirror. She bares all, something it seems she’s always done but it’s not for the sake of exhibition-this is more like thug motivation.
Memorable moments include seeing the 79 year old in a lusty photo shoot that proves confidence will always be the singular component of sex appeal. Others include too short glances of her as a child. This film is for true fans of Elza so at times as a gringa I was lost on certain images, like an old newspaper clip stating that Elza and her pro footballer ex husband were actually never separated confused me. I very much wished there was more of a linear storyline to follow because Elza is already so abstract and hard to grasp, but I will admit I am intrigued now and will more than likely go about researching her myself. In conclusion this film is a great introduction into the philosophical and mystical mind of the Goddess Elza Soares.