TV Series of Marielle Franco: Council Woman in Rio de Janeiro
Note from BW of Brazil: In just a few days (March 14) we will be remembering the second year anniversary of the murder of Rio conuncilwoman Marielle Franco. The brutal assassination of Franco in what was clearly on organized hit sent shockwaves across the world. In these two years that have passed, the assassins have yet to be brought to justice although we’ve seen a number of interesting developments that seem to hint at a massive cover-up, the interests and powerful people who may have wanted a powerful voice such as that of Marielle silenced.
TV Series of Marielle Franco: Council Woman in Rio de Janeiro
With the announcement of two projects focused on Marielle, it seems that there may be a plot to murder Marielle again. OK, maybe not murder, but definitely whitewash. In this past decade, Afro-Brazilian filmmakers have made some great strides in getting their creations produced. There has been great progress from a time when Joel Zito Araújo and Jeferson De were really the only relatively well-known black film directors in Brazil.
Today, Afro-Brazilian cineastas, even being mostly ignored in their own country, are earning respect and recognition all over the world with their work. And this is precisely the reason that the annoucement of a TV series loosely based on Marielle’s murder raised red flags within the Afro-Brazilian community. The flags were raised specifically by black professionals from the area of audio-visual production.
The specific issue the fact that Globo TV, the nation’s largest, most influential television network, announced that three white writers and producers would be writing and directing the production of the series. The issue is not new. The African-American community has been having this battle for years, with white writers writing stories telling stories of the black community as they see them. I remember hearing an interview with famed writer Eric Monte on a discussion he once had with a white producer about writing about black life, something he knew nothing about.
People would be surprised to know that some of their favorite “black” films were written by white people, the 2015 film about gangster rappers NWA, Straight Outta Compton, is one that might catch people by surprise. As film and television are genres where Afro-Brazilians remain mostly frozen out in terms of creativity behind the cameras, the calls for black representation calling the shots in how black people and black stories are presented on the big and small screen have been getting louder and louder.
Besides the series, Globo TV also intends to air a documentary entitled Marielle: O Documentário, that will be broadcast on March 13th. But it was the series that attracted the most pushback due to the absence of black people, especially black women, in positions of artistic control.
Another reason for the rejection of the production of the proposed series is the involvement of Antonia Pellegrino, one of the writers of the highly criticized 2014 Globo TV series Sexo e as Negas and José Padilha, director of Tropa de Elite (Elite Squad) as director of the series.
The racial stereotypes presented about four black women in Sexo provoked one of the most vocal attacks on a Globo TV depiction of Afro-Brazilians in recent history. The series, directed by Miguel Falabella, also white, was so heavily repudiated by black women that there was no chance that the series would be coming back for a second season.
On the other hand, the Tropa de Elite film was a huge comercial success with its graphic depictions of Rio de Janeiro’s brutal police unit known as BOPE. The scenes of violence and torture in this film is especially problematic in a country whose police are among the most murderous in the world and also because of the ideology of the current extremist president Jair Bolsonaro, a former military man who has repeatedly assured that he will issue a blank check for Military Police to continue terrorizing Brazil’s mostly black slums. Director Padilha is also know for directing the series O Mecanismo that intentionally distorted the history of the infamous Lava Jato (Operation Car Wash) scandal and politics in Brazil.
The issue surrounding the selection of white producers and directors has been a hot topic for the past few days, with a number of articles written by Afro-Brazilians from the world of audio-video production. Below is a letter directed at Rede Globo and endorsed by a number of influential Afro-Brazilians. I will be following up this latest controversy in the coming posts.
Note of Repudiation
On Friday, March 6, 2020, Rede Globo and Globoplay announced a fictional series based on the life of Marielle Franco, whose murder in 2018 remains unsolved. It turns out that the announced project is headed up by three white people. Screenwriter Antonia Pellegrino (of the series Sexo e as Negas, Bruna Surfistinhas and Tim Maia), George Moura (Onde Nascem os Fortes, Amores Roubados and O Canto da Sereia) and José Padilha.
This is an outrage. However, in a capitalist society, it is not surprising that the story of a black woman is told from the point of view of three white people. The only surprise is the fact that they took so long to announce the project, given the fate that they have had to take ownership of this story for so long.
But the disaster gets bigger in every detail. The director chosen to lead the series is the man who gave and gives symbolic tools for the construction of fascism and genocide of black youth in the country. It is an extreme violence to involve in a series about Marielle the author of films that heroically portrayed the country’s most violent police. To give you an idea, after Tropa de Elite (Elite Squad), the enrollment in Bope increased dramatically. The portrait there inspired and inspires violent actions all over the country. No wonder, the troop’s theme song in the film appeared in dozens of videos supporting the incumbent president. It is the film that most praised the theme “a good bandit is dead bandit”, simplifying the discussion of urban violence to a question of police.
Furthermore, fictionalizing around a crime that is still being investigated is also violence and a naturalization of violent crime and the 13 shots fired at Marielle’s car, which victimized her and her driver Anderson Gomes.
After that, Padilha also directed the series O Mecanismo, whose historical falsifications only increased the fascist discourse that resulted in the most authoritarian and violent government in recent decades in Brazil.
It is revolting once again to see branquitude (whiteness) disguise as good intentions the appropriation of the image of a black lesbian woman, from the favela, a mother, daughter, sister and wife. To defend her property of telling Marielle’s story, Antonia Pellegrino used as an argument: “I knew her very well”, “I helped in her first campaign”, “I held her coffin”.
But the same person who claims to have been inspired by Marielle and claims to have respect for black feminism, releases herself as a herald to tell this story allied with her male and white peers. All of this is extremely violent. It is disrespectful to everything that Marielle defended.
If any of these people had really understood Marielle’s struggle, they would have known how violent it is to make this project headed only by people who don’t reflect her image and likeness. There is symbolic and financial value in telling this story. A value that will remain in the hands of those who have always dominated audiovisual (production) in Brazil.
Having lived or fought alongside Marielle at any time doesn’t take the weight off the decision to appropriate her story in this way.
Padilha said in an interview with O Globo that he “dedicated himself for a long time to stories of urban violence in Rio. This is one that needs to be told.” Marielle’s story is much more than just institutional violence. She is much more than a victim of urban violence that they try to make it seem. Her murder is a reflection of the necropolitics she denounced. (TV Series of Marielle Franco: Council Woman in Rio de Janeiro)
Marielle’s story is also the story of affective technologies, as Marielle always talked about affection, empathy, women fighting together, and young black women moving structures. Whiteness wants to appropriate and narrate this story without even understanding what it’s about. This is all too desperate.
Black men and women and lesbians were denied the right to tell this story. For although structural and institutional racism tries to paralyze us, black men and black and women have become great filmmakers, commanding productions and receiving recognition here and abroad in Brazil. Therefore, it is even more perverse to know that this story will only be told if it is produced by these people, because racism has produced a mechanism to distance black people from the right to tell their own story.
Anyone who works in the audiovisual industry is well aware of the perverse whiteness strategies that dominate this medium and understand the code behind “well-intentioned” statements about turning the series into a “school”. This means that the final decisions will all be made by whites and that the non-white professionals on the team will at most have the right to fight and get sick trying to make the narrative less racist, being overwhelmed by tokenism.
Marielle, in her last public speech, told about the city hall of Rio: “first they come out kicking the door, then they apologize and lastly they offer a microcredit, which doesn’t repair anything.” This is the modus operandi of whiteness. Take ownership as if everything belonged to it: our bodies, our subjectivity, our history. It’s a disaster, it is violent and racist.
Artists and media producers signing the note
1 – Ana Julia Travia – Screenwriter and Director.
2 – Maíra Oliveira – Screenwriter and Playwright.
3 – Mariani Ferreira – Screenwriter.
4 – Renata Martins – Screenwriter and Director.
5 – Myrza Muniz – Screenwriter.
6 – Carol Rodrigues – Screenwriter and Director.
7 – Jeferson da Silva Brum – Producer and Distributor.
8 – Gautier Lee – Screenwriter and Director.
9 – Ulisses da Motta Costa – Director.
10 – Luiz Santana – Screenwriter.
11- Juliana Balhego – Audiovisual Director.
12 – Phelipe Caetano – Screenwriter.
13 – Adriana Silva – Producer and Screenwriter.
14 – Lorena Montenegro – Screenwriter and Film Critic.
15 – Maitê Freitas – Journalist.
16 – Viviane Pistache – Screenwriter, Doctoral Student and Critic.
17 – Mariana Luiza – Screenwriter and Director.
18 – Thaise de Oliveira Machado – Art Director
19 – Daniel Ramos – Anthropologist.
20 – Bruno dos Anjos Soeiro de Souza – Director of Photography.
21 – Paulo Souza – Actress.
22 – Laís Werneck Oliveira – Producer.
23 – Manuela da Fonseca Miranda – Actress.
24 – Frederico Rosa da Paz – Producer.
25 – Daniela Israel – Producer and Director.
26 – Cibele Amaral – Screenwriter and Director.
27 – Gabriella Padilha Scott – Audiovisual Director.
28 – Roberta Rangel – Actress and Director.
29 – Jessica Queiroz – Director and Assembler.
30 – Julia Tolentino – Audiovisual Director.
31 – Maria Clara – Screenwriter and Advertising.
32 – Caroline Moreira – Entrepreneur.
33 – Jonathan Raymundo – Producer of Wakanda in Madureira.
34 – Carmen Faustino – Writer and Cultural Producer.
35 – Tabatha Sanches – Singer and Teacher.
36 – Kelly Adriano de Oliveira – Anthropologist, Educator and Cultural Manager.
37 – Eliana Alves Cruz – Writer and Journalist.
38 – Sabrina Fidalgo – Screenwriter and Director.
39 – Luciana Damasceno – Actress and Screenwriter.
40 – Bianca Joy Porte – Actress and Screenwriter.
41 – Jorane Castro – Screenwriter and Director.
42 – Marília Nogueira – Screenwriter and Director.
43 – Sílvia Godinho – Director, Screenwriter and Producer.
44 – Erica Malunguinho – State Representative of PSOL.
45 – Rafaela Carmelo – Director and Screenwriter.
46 – Érica Sarmet – Screenwriter, Director and Researcher.
47 – Jorge Washington – Founding actor and member of the managing group of the Olodum Theater Group.
48 – Gabriel Nascimento – Professor, Researcher and Writer.
49 – Gabriela Ramos – Lawyer and Researcher.
50 – Pedro Borges – Journalist and co-founder of Alma Preta.
51 – Claudia Alves – Screenwriter and Director.
52 – Estevão Ribeiro – Screenwriter and writer, creator of the comic strip Rê Tinta.
53 – Rafael Mike – Screenwriter – Composer, Singer and Musical Director (Dream Team do Passinho).
54 – Thamyra Thamara de Araújo – Journalist and Screenwriter.
55 – Ana Pacheco – Screenwriter.
56 – Thiago Bernardes – Musician and Educator.
57 – Éthel Oliveira – Filmmaker
58 – Luiza Romão – Actress and Slammer.
59 – Marina Luísa Silva – Researcher and Screenwriter.
60 – Eric Paiva – Screenwriter.
61 – Bruna Fortes – Assembler.
62 – Ton Apolinário – Screenwriter.
63 – Atilon Lima – Audiovisualist and Photographer.
64 – Mariana Costa – Researcher.
65- Monique Rocco – Production Director.
66 – Karoline Maia – Director.
67 – Ébano Gama – Advertising.
68 – Nêga Lucas – Actress, Director, Writer.