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Brazil: 5XFavela: Art Breaking Social and Cultural Barriers

The Project 5X Favela [5 Times Favela], which aims to teach young people from the favelas (slums) of Rio de Janeiro how to work in the movie business, presented its first feature film, “5X Favela: Now by ourselves” at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival on 18th May.

The film shows five shorts of 20 minutes [pt], each made by different students from the several film workshops from the Project 5X Favela performed by renowned Brazilian filmmakers such as Nelson Pereira dos Santos [pt], Ruy Guerra, Walter Lima Jr., Daniel Filho [pt], Walter Salles, Fernando Meirelles, João Moreira Salles and others.  “5X Favela: Now by ourserves” reflects the voice and point of view of the youth living (and growing up) in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro.

It is hard not to be charmed by a social and cultural project of this size [pt], which intends not only to inform both Brazilian and international population about the lives of slum-dwellers, but also to professionalize and provide opportunities for talented young people who bring new ideas to Brazilian cinema.

Participants of the film production went through a long and arduous apprenticeship until the final selection for the project. 229 young people attended various workshops such as screenplay writing, direction, production, photography, art, editing, post-production, and interpretation. They had also received an allowance to make it possible to attend classes. From these workshops, 84 young people were chosen to join the film crew, which resulted in “5X Favela: Now by ourselves”.

During production (Photo Courtesy of the Film Production)

The workshops were developed in partnership with organizations and communities of the favelas (slums) and the CUFA [pt] [Favela's Central Unit) in Cidade de Deus[City of God], the Nós do Morro (in Vidigal), the Observatorio de Favelas [Favela Observatory] (in the Maré Complex), the AfroReggae [pt] (in Parada de Lucas ) and the Cidadela/Cinemaneiro [pt] (headquartered in Lapa neighborhood, bringing together people from various communities of the Linha Amarela Highway) [pt].

Published in the project blog, Professor Ruy Guerra, the group's patron, gave an emotional statement at the end of the workshops:

Para ser bem sucedido em qualquer forma de expressão artística, como no cinema, não basta a sensibilidade, a intuição e o talento. É preciso ser do seu tempo. É preciso saber de onde viemos, para saber quem somos, para falar do presente, do passado, e até do futuro, que é também um território da arte.
É indispensável termos a consciência clara que nunca estamos prontos, que devemos estar sempre de olhos abertos, bem abertos, vendo, lendo, questionando, vivendo.

(…)Antes queria que soubessem por que é que este momento é tão especial para mim. Por que este encontro, além de um ato festivo, além de um ritual de passagem, é também um gesto político importante. Este encontro, no qual todos nós somos atores, faz parte do sentimento político que os fazedores de cinema, (e aqui uso o termo cinema no sentido amplo de todas as formas de expressão que usam as imagens em movimento), podem e devem vir de todas as camadas sociais de uma nação, e não apenas de minorias previlegiadas. E que o cinema, como objeto, como filme, pode e deve estar ao alcance de qualquer um. Todos aqui, estou certo disso, estamos habitados por essa convicção.

To be successful in any form of artistic expression, like in the movies, sensitivity, intuition and talent are not enough. You have to be someone from your own time. You must know where we come from to know who we are to talk about the present, past, and even about the future, which is also a territory of art. It is vital to have a clear awareness that we are never ready, that we should always have our eyes wide open, watching, reading, questioning and living.

(…) First, I wanted you to know why this moment is so special to me. Why this meeting, along with a festive act, besides being a rite of passage, is also an important political gesture. This meeting, in which we are all actors, is part of the political feeling that the cinema-makers, (and here I use the term cinema in the broad sense of all forms of expression that use moving images), can and should come from all social layers of a nation, not just privileged minority also, the cinema as an object, such as film, can and should be accessible to anyone. Everyone here, I am sure, is inhabited by this conviction.

A few weeks ago, Rodrigo Felha, one of the directors of the film, reported in his blog the joy and anxiety about the chance of the film being shown at Cannes:

“Quinta-feira dia 15 de Abril é quebrada a ansiedade de saber se estamos no Festival de Cannes. É verdade, é histórico… das favelas cariocas pra Cannes, uma responsabilidade muito grande, do jeito que gosto. Agora é manter os pés no chão e se preparar. Ganhar o mundo não é pra qualquer um, mas é pra quem corre atrás e sabe representar uma massa de profissionais de qualidade que moram nas periferias do Rio e do Brasil. Espero estar representando bem! Vamu q vamu…”

“In thursday April 15th, the anxiety of whether we will be at the Cannes Film Festival will end. I'ts true, it is historical… the slums going to Cannes is a very big responsibility, just the way I like it. Now it is time to keep our feet on the ground and get ready. Not everyone can gain the world, it is for those who endeavor and represent a mass of quality professionals who live on the outskirts of Rio and Brazil. I hope you are all well represented! Let's keep on going… “

Directors of the movie (Courtesy of the Film Production)

The film went to Cannes, and according to several encouraging statements circulating on Facebook and Twitter, is going well:

Cannes ferveu com a festa do 5xFavela ontem, tomara que alguém poste fotos ou vídeos. “Mas eu só quero é ser feliz, fazer a minha mala para vir até Paris, e poder me orgulhar de vir aqui pra cannes com a Renata e com o Cacá”. Foi emocionante pacas. Ponto alto do festival. (A. L. B.  no Facebook)

Cannes was burning with the 5x Favela party last night, hopefully someone will post pictures or videos. “I just want to be happy, make my bags arrive in Paris. And be able to be proud to come here to Cannes with Renata and the Caca.” [this is a joke about a funk lyric that says “I just want to be happy, live in peace in the favela in which I was born”, that in Portuguese rhymes perfectly] It was thrilling to see it. Highlight of the festival. (A. L. B. at Facebook)

@Ana_Moreno @la_lima I watched the 5xFavela shorts last night, it was pretty emotional, all Brazil was there!

@LuigiGt @5xfavela The movie we all Need to see!

@malu_muniz (+) un fresco de ficción sobre base desgraciadamente real firmado por cineastas jóvenes e inexpertos que saben de lo que hablan… #5xfavela

@malu_muniz (+) a fiction about the degrading life reality signed by inexperienced young filmmakers who know what they are doing… # 5xfavela

Watch the movie promo:

The barriers yet to be broken

But as life is not a bed of roses. Just before leaving for the Cannes festival, one of the film's directors Rodrigo Felha, was humiliated by policemen in the square of Cidade de Deus [City of God]. The blog BrazilianGirlsRadio wrote:

O fato ocorreu na noite de sábado (15/5) na Praça da Cidade de Deus  (apartamentos). Ele foi vítima de abuso policial sendo obrigado a ficar em trajes íntimos na presença de outros moradores.

The incident occurred on Saturday night (15/5) in the square of Cidade de Deus (apartments). He was abused by police and forced to remain in his underwear in the presence of other residents.

Movie Scene (Courtesy of Film Production)

MVBill [pt], a leading Brazilian rapper also denounced the incident on Facebook and twitter:

@mvbill  Diretor do Filme 5xFavela é humilhado na véspera do embarque para Cannes #cannes http://migre.me/FoYh MV Bill TTbr#viradacultural

@mvbill 5xFavela Film Director is humiliated on the eve of departure for Cannes http://migre.me/FoYh # # MV Bill TTBR viradacultural

Celso Athayde [pt], a community leader and creator of Cine Cufa [pt], a film festival that showcases movies made by residents of poor neighborhoods from several countries, also commented about the episode on his blog:

Essa não é a polícia que queremos, como também não acreditamos que isso seja orientação do Governador Sergio Cabral ou do Comandante da PM, ao mesmo tempo queremos sair do caminho comum da simples denúncia e punição do policial autor dessa arbitrariedade, pois, para nós da Cufa, isso seria muito fácil, no entanto seria como enxugar um chão molhado e deixar a torneira aberta, pois a cultura dominante autoritária que carrega o estereótipo das favelas e seus habitantes como humanos (sem direitos) permaneceria, mesmo com o policial punido.

This is not the police we want, nor do we believe that this is the guidance given by the Governor Sergio Cabral or Policy Commander. But we want to stop just complaining and want the punishment of policeman author of  this arbitrary act, since for us, from Cufa [pt], it would be easier, however it would be like drying a wet floor and leaving the water running, because the  authoritarian culture that carries the stereotype of the favelas and their inhabitants as human beings (without rights) would remain, even with the officer punished.

Some comments on his post had a similar tone:

É impressionante que este tipo de coisa aconteça em pleno século XXI. Lastimável. Está na hora de todos, sociedade e governantes darem um basta neste tipo de atitude, que é o mesmo preceito do nazismo que o planeta tanto odeia. Rogério Garcia – RJ

It's amazing that this kind of thing still happens in the 21st century. It's pitiful. It is time for all, society and government, to stop this kind of attitude, which is the same given by the Nazis, that this planet hates so much. Roger Garcia – RJ

É impressionante que,depois de anos de repressão, continuemos sofrendo com atitudes humilhantes e constrangedoras de pessoas que,não sabem o que é ser um policial. Aposto que este homem não sabe a real função de um policial. Este homen denigre a imagem de uma corporação, que ainda tento acreditar que em sua maioria são pessoa honrradas.

It's amazing that, after years of repression, we keep suffering from demeaning and embarrassing attitudes from people who do not know what being a cop is. I bet this man does not know the real job of a policeman. This man denigrates the image of a corporation that still tries to believe that most of them are honored people. Yanko Rodriguez – RJ

The blog Cinema é Magia [Cinema is Magic] has also addresses the topic, saying that CUFA already contacted the state government of Rio de Janeiro to report the case and submit proposals for an awareness of the police:

Felha disse que a Cufa (Central Única das Favelas) já entrou em contato com o governo do estado do Rio de Janeiro para pedir uma reunião em que serão apresentadas propostas de um projeto de conscientização dos policiais.
Ainda segundo Felha, o projeto está sendo elaborado em parceria com o rapper MV Bill e o líder local Celso Athayde. A ideia é que “os policiais que estão sendo formados agora para trabalhar como pacificadores façam antes um curso nas favelas, diretamente com os moradores”, revelou. As aulas, afirma, seriam ministradas por ele e possivalmente pelo policial contra quem ele diz ter registrado queixa por constrangimento ilegal.

Felha said Cufa has contacted the government of the state of Rio de Janeiro to request a meeting at which proposals will be submitted for a project to raise awareness among the police.
Also according to Felha, the project is being developed in partnership with rapper MV Bill and Celso Athayde, a community leader. The idea is that “the police that is being trained now to do work as peacemakers should attend a workshop in the favelas, having direct contact with the residents,” he said. The classes, he added, would be taught by him and possibly by the police officer who he filed a complaint against for illegal constraint.

These facts show how many barriers have still to be crossed and that are far beyond having the film shown in Cannes. Internal barriers and cultural stigmas are deeply rooted. But with initiatives and opportunities such as these, they can be increasingly diluted.

The film's official website is http://www.5xfavela.com.br/. Click here for the blog. For tweets, follow @5xfavela.

This article was proofread by Marta Cooper.

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