Two of the most interesting and intriguing documentaries of the past decade paint a troubling picture of life in Brazil.
Favela Rising from 2005 is set in the slums of Rio where a former drug dealer called Anderson Sá tries to turn peoples' lives around with a social movement inspired by AfroReggae music.
Released two years later, Manda Bala, translated as "Send a Bullet" weaves a complex tapestry of underworld life in Brazil's "crime capital," São Paulo. The film was described by the New York Times' Stephen Holden as "a flashy documentary about corruption, injustice and frog farming in Brazil...a weird hybrid of political exposé and sensationalistic fluff. "
Both films showcase the shockingly common practice of kidnapping-for-profit, drug dealing, and other criminal enterprises run by well organized and armed-to-the-teeth underworld gangs.
When Brazil won bids to host the World Cup in 2014, and the Summer Olympics in 2016, the Brazilian government committed to clamp down on underworld activities. Waging war with the powerful gangs, over 2,000 Brazilian military have taken to the streets of Brazil.
The HBO Documentary Witness: Rio, the first in a four-part "Witness" series chronicling "the art and the truth-telling of photography within conflict zones," tracks this campaign, and asks the question: If Rio's murder rate is falling, even as missing persons cases are dramatically on the rise, where are the bodies? More to the point, "Is this social cleansing?"
Co-presented by HBO and the Center for Civil and Human Rights, on the occasion of the 65th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Witness: Rio screens free tonight (Thursday, December 6) at 7:00 p.m. at the Landmark Midtown Art Cinema.
Click on the poster to link to the RSVP form for FREE tickets:
What follows is the complete description of the film from HBO's Web site:
Though Rio de Janeiro will host the Summer Olympics in 2016, the city currently remains crippled by a war raging between police and powerful drug gangs. Over 2,000 Brazilian military have taken to the streets in a largest offensive in decades. They are taking on the Red Command and Amigos de Amigos, two powerful gangs, in an attempt to regain control of the city's hilltop favelas before the world's eyes focus on Brazil as it hosts the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympics. The powerful drug gangs have fought back with a series of urban terror attacks on cars, buses and police stations. Several journalists have been murdered. Photographer Eros Hoagland is one of only a few willing to venture into the dangerous favelas like Mangueira, which overlooks the Olympic stadium. Mysteries are revealed: In some areas of "pacification," Red Command have been warned in advance and have already left for more remote parts. Rio's murder rate is said to be falling, yet missing persons cases are dramatically on the rise. "Is this 'social cleansing'?," Hoagland asks. "Where are the bodies?" As he journeys deeper into the dangerous streets he finds some of the answers - disturbing images of bodies in alleys, buried in wells or burned beyond recognition. Directed by David Frankham; produced by Julie Herrin and Josiah Hooper.
WITNESS is a Blue Light Media/Little Puppet Production. Executive producers are Michael Mann and David Frankham. It features photojournalists Eros Hoagland, Michael Christopher Brown and Veronique de Viguerie. Cinematographer is Jared Moosey and composer is Antonio Pinto. An HBO Documentary Films presentation.
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