From June 7-10, 2018, Rio de Janeiro played host to Virada Sustentável (Sustainable Turn), a festival organized across various Brazilian cities by a movement of people, groups, and public and private institutions that share a common interest in sustainability. The activities were spread across the city and included events in a number of favelas such as Cantagalo and Maré, the latter of which held an exhibition featuring photographers from Maré and Alemão and workshops aimed at women on themes ranging from self-care to composting. The activities scheduled to take place in Babilônia in partnership with the project Revolusolar did not happen due to clashes between police and drug traffickers in the region, culminating in the execution of seven traffickers whose bodies were thrown into the sea and appeared two days later on a beach in Urca.
Favela Hub, a social innovation space in the Pavão-Pavãozinho and Cantagalo favela complex (PPG), hosted the Silvio Tendler cinema club on June 9. The cinema club was named after a documentary director who tackles political themes such as privatization and dictatorship, and whose film, Finger on the Wound—portraying the life of regular citizens in the midst of an economic crisis that benefits the powerful—is currently in theaters. The cinema club, launched in March of this year, aims to show independent films produced in diverse places as a way to expand the community’s cultural horizons.
“The idea is to bring quality audiovisual material into the favela,” said Josy Oliveira, a resident of the community for 13 years and one of the cinema club organizers. There are two monthly sessions in different locations with one of the two aimed at children and youth who, as it happens, dominated this particular joint cinema club session. “We don’t even need a physical space. Having a big screen, the equipment and having an audience, we can do it anywhere in the community, in any alley,” Oliveira added.
The films screened included the shorts Favela as a Sustainable Model by Catalytic Communities (CatComm, the NGO responsible for RioOnWatch) and The Force of Marias by local Cantagalo production company Curta Raízes Produções, as well as clips from the feature film In Front by Social Good Brasil. Produced in 2012 for Rio+20, the UN sustainability event that happened in Rio twenty years after the famous 1992 Earth Summit, the short film Favela as a Sustainable Model, explores the ways in which sustainable principles form the very fabric of life in favelas, as well as the challenges favelas face due to government neglect. The film features environmental problems due to government neglect, such as the floods, garbage, and sewage issues in the favela Pica-Pau, alongside solution-focused initiatives such as the socio-environmental NGO Verdejar from Alemão and Favela Orgânica from Babilônia. The latter uses parts of food that are typically discarded to create elaborate dishes.
Roseli Franco, CatComm’s Institutional Director and producer of the film, explained how the film led to the Sustainable Favela Network project, which has already mapped more than 100 socio-environmental sustainability and resilience initiatives in favelas across the metropolitan region. The project is currently working to raise the visibility of these initiatives through media coverage, and will organize exchanges, trainings, partnerships, and the formation of a knowledge-sharing network as a way to strengthen this model of development.
The Force of Marias, winner of three awards in the 72Hours Film Festival in 2017, tells the story of three strong women named Maria from the Vito Giannoti occupation, in Morro do Pinto in Rio’s Centro, addressing the housing struggle, resistance, and efforts to find belonging, as well as the popular communication undertaken. The film In Front, for its part, showcases social entrepreneurship and technology initiatives that can inspire audiences, like a platform for exchanges that uses time as its currency, such that you can exchange an hour of your time for an hour of someone else’s.
The movies were followed by a discussion in which the organizers talked about the importance of claiming this space to show the films and how the similarities among them were greater than the differences, as they all dealt in some way with how people look for solutions to overcome a lack of public services, whether in housing, sanitation and garbage collection, education, or employment.
After the film club, there was an electrifying show by Sensacionais do Passinho, a group of dancers from the community, and a performance of “Us, Seed,” a powerful piece co-produced by students and teachers from the Teatre-se project, which runs weekly theater classes in Cantagalo. The piece, interwoven with poems and music on the same theme, portrayed situations of physical and moral constraints and harassment that girls and women suffer daily. It had the audience holding its breath in some moments and shedding tears in others, and going home with the full certainty that great talents will come out of these two projects.