RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – With compelling stories unfolding against a stunning backdrop, Rio de Janeiro sets the perfect scene for many documentary filmmakers from around the world. Yet bringing a film to fruition here isn’t easy, and filmmakers must patiently – and sometimes dangerously – integrate themselves into the culture before cracking the window into the world of their subjects.
Movie poster for "Dancing with the Devil," a documentary focusing on the drug wars in the favela Coréia.
Only through a steadfast commitment to the story are some foreign filmmakers able to showcase perspectives that would otherwise be unseen by the masses, and amplify the voices of those who live them everyday.
One such film is the 2009 documentary “Dancing with the Devil,” which focuses on the drug wars unfolding in the Rio de Janeiro favela Coréia, as seen through the eyes of law enforcers, a pastor and the drug lords themselves.
For co-producer Tom Philips, the film was made possible through his relationship with Pastor Dione dos Santos, who worked closely with the favela’s drug traffickers.
Even with one contact directly intertwined in the story, earning enough trust to film in these environments and interview the subjects came at a slow pass. “It took us several years to gain the trust of our characters and to convince them to open their lives to our cameras,” Philips said.
Patricia Maresch of the Netherlands, who directed and produced “Cruzeiro,” a 2008 documentary about growing up in a favela agrees: “It’s not always easy to work here as a filmmaker … You can’t just fly in, film for two months, [and] then go back home.”
Maresch had to patiently win the faith of those involved in the film – not only from the main subjects, but from others in the community who saw the outsider with a camera. “People are afraid to be on camera,” she said, noting that many Brazilians are leery of how filmmakers will portray them. “They think ‘you’ll just show what bad people we are.’”
Movie poster for "Cruzeiro," a documentary covering the difficulties of growing up in Rio's favelas.
Even once the hard-won trust and access are granted, the filmmakers have plenty of obstacles to overcome to complete the documentary, sometimes including Rio’s notorious violence.
Maresch often had her filming put on hold during violent eruptions in the area. “There were weeks when we couldn’t do anything because of the shooting,” she said, noting that it was too dangerous for the film’s subjects to go outside.
Philips and the “Dancing with the Devil” team found themselves thrust into violent situations, too. With cameras rolling, they endured a bloody shootout between the drug squads and drug lords that left others around them dead.
Yet through the hardships of creating real-life films in Rio de Janeiro, the finished work often offers more than simply entertainment. Manydocumentaries can bring about social awareness and change.
“If a solution is to be found, these stories need to be told, even if that makes some people uncomfortable,” Philips said.
Filmmakers, like Marsech, are proud to share the lives of people who might not otherwise be noticed among the larger social issues. “We really tried to show what it was like (growing up in a favela),” she said. “It was their story to tell. I just helped them tell it.”
ALEIJADINHO (THE LITTLE CRIPPLE) Collage/paper/painting/drawing RWayn 2011
Antônio Francisco Lisboa, Aleijadinho (the “little cripple”), was a Brazilian sculptor representative of the Brazilian Baroque. He was born in 1738 to a architect father, Manoel Francisco Lisboa, and his Brazilian slave, Isabel. He died in 1814, in his native state of Minas Gerais, Brazil, poor and unknown. His last outstanding work foremost , the life size rendering of 12 prophets standing on the stairway of Bom Jesus de Matosinhos Church, in the city of Congonhas do Campo, he made while suffering leprosy or syphilis, with his working tools tied to his hand and wrists.
A DECENT STORY - THE WORLD TURNS CRAZY AGAIN - RAMBLIN WAYN
foto by Paul Rondagh
'....Sometimes I ponder and my thoughts reach the absurdities of life. The poverty, misery, the impotence of silence, the rejection of capitalism, the dirty talk of the multi-national. Children dying of hunger, insecurity, exploitation, and there are some people getting mad of grief. The're politicions whom talk is downright full of demoniacally, what makes the world sometimes completely unnatural and confused. It's God his task? But the man upstairs looks down and let some suffer in violent disaster. Look at the movies, television, and all insanity. Madness my friends! and God is in a discussion with the devil. Who will save nature? Do we know after all why we are still here? All these facts made me composing some songs, these are my thoughts, that made me shudder now and then. Who am I? Man of beast? Lonesome? Viking? Alien? But I also remember the good things, like pure love, my mother, and the time I was a friend of Mustangs and I rode beside Geronimo. And we are simply just not all a Shakespeare, not even a hillbilly. Therefore I wrote this song to myself to convince me of the filth of our society. But thanks Lord there are good people.. with the heart in the middle.. So, when I feel the need, I drink to see all these pictures as an idiotic movie passing by... and than.... damned...
SCULPTURES FROM HAN VAN WETERING 1948, MAASTRICHT, NETHERLANDS PART 1
'... Han is a artist straight from the heart, his sculptures are images that do not tolerate opposition. His work is full of colors which he sets out... the indian, musicians... characters with penetrating impulsive expressions... Would man understands him?...' Wayn Pieters
Round Han's neck hangs a wreath, a bronze cast of pre-historical lower teeth found during excavations on the main square of the old city of Maastricht, Netherlands
(When asked about writing from personal experience) "That's really an easy way to write a song. The subject matter's right before you. All you have to do is give it meter and rhyme."
"I think there's something inside you that just says 'You gotta write a song. Whether you want to or not.' I think most of the time, I start writing with a feel. As for inspiration, well, personal feelings about members of the opposite sex, I think, inspire most of the songs I write."
Favorite recordings of songs he wrote: "He Stopped Loving Her Today," George Jones 1980, "Womanhood," Tammy Wynette 1978, "Nashville Tears," John Anderson 1993