“It’s very complex the situation of a white telling the story of a black, without being in his place”: The absence of black representation behind the cameras

CAPA mostradecinemanegrobrasileiro nanu
CAPA mostradecinemanegrobrasileiro nanu


Note from BW of Brazil: The time is long past due. We know that there are a number of talented Afro-Brazilian filmmakers that have directed a number of important works, particularly in the past decade or so. But even being talented and recognized internationally, these filmmakers still run into problems with attaining the necessary funding and distribution to get their projects done and then made available for the Brazilian public. A change is clearly necessary, and not just because of the funding and distribution issues.

As we have seen repeatedly in the film, television and advertising industries, the responsibility of the representation of black Brazilians remains overwhelmingly in the hands of white men. And as these white men have proven time and time again that they have no problem with the continuation of the usage of decades long stereotypes about black Brazilian men and women. That is the reason why we continue to see television series such as highly criticized Globo TV series Sexo e as Negas, or updating of old characters in new skin, as in the case of funk singer Nego do Borel signing on to re-create the Tião Macalé character from the old comedy Os Trapalhões. The fact is, as long as creative control in the audio-video realm is controlled by those outside of our community, these sorts of images will continue to be the norm and, as such, the images of black people will continue to be associated with such images given the power of mainstream media.

Funk singer Nego do Borel cast to re-create the old Tião Macalé stereotype, series ‘Sexo e as Negas’ was heavily criticized

With the slight opening of opportunities for Afro-Brazilian in the halls of higher learning, numerous voices have risen to challenge this lack of control that black people have over their own images. And creatively, platforms such as Afro-Flix, YouTube and even the few feature length film productions created by black content makers show that the people not only reject white dominance over our image, they are showing that they have skills and credentials to challenge the mainstream narrative of what it is to be black in Brazil. Let the conversation on this topic continue. And better yet, may these rising voices continue to do something about it.

scene from film filhas do vento
Scene from film ‘Filhas do Vento’

 “The white artist is not capable of representing the black”

By Mayara Oliveira

The absence of black representativeness behind the cameras

Racial inequality encompasses several sectors of the labor market and it is in the cinema that we see this disparity more clearly, especially in Brazil. Where are the blacks in the audiovisual scene? How many of them participate from the beginning of the process to the performance in the films? What is the black representativeness behind the cameras like today?

For decades, blacks were represented in the media and in art – cinema, television, radio and theater – in a stereotyped way. We remind you of blackface, a theatrical practice in which white actors painted their faces with cork charcoal to represent African-American characters in an exaggerated, exotic and often jocular way, only reinforcing racism. The practice may have been extinguished from the stages, but blacks continued to be discriminated against in the new media, both in their image and in their social position.

Sociologist and historian Carlos Machado holds a master’s degree in Social History from USP (University of São Paulo), a scholar of the black movement and African culture and author of the book Gênios da Humanidade: Ciência, Tecnologia e Inovação Africana e Afrodescendente (Geniuses of Humanity: Science, Technology and African and African descendant Innovation). According to him, the white artist is not able to represent the black, as he explains: “It is very complex the situation of a white telling the story of a black, without being in his place. It’s basically talking about a culture that is not yours.”

In 1930, with the rise of social movements and consequent visibility to the marginalized people, the insertion of the black as a representative of the Brazilian people in the media began. However, the fundamental problem remained: white men wrote about the culture and history of black men without experiencing it. Only from the 1960s, with the so-called cinema novo (new cinema) did, the Brazilian cinematographic market begin to have black filmmakers such as Zózimo Bulbul, Cajado Filho and Agenor Alves.

black brazilian directors - capa
Pioneers in black Brazilian filmmaking: Cajado Filho, Agenor Alves and Zózimo Bulbul

The study entitled “A cara do cinema nacional” (The face of national cinema), published by the Instituto Gemma (Grupo de Estudos Multidisciplinar da Ação Afirmativa), on audiovisual production in Brazil, shows that 74% of screenwriters are men and, of this total, only 4% are black. In contrast, only 26% are female, and of that percentage, there are no black women. In directing, the scenario is even worse: 84% of the directors are male and white, while 13% are white women. Only 2% of the directors are black men, and again, there is no percentage of black women in the category.

Filmmakers such as Joel Zito Araújo, André Novais and Jeferson De (3rd, 4th, 5th from left) and others represent a new school of black Brazilian filmmakers

Even with more than half the population composed of people who declare themselves black and a growing black protagonism within the Brazilian audiovisual, we can still perceive the alarming gender inequality within this market. Few women direct films in Brazil, reinforcing the idea that cinema was, from its inception, produced by men and for men.

Jéssica Queiroz (de branco), Barbara Maria (de preto) e Ana Julia (de vermelho) fazem parte de uma nova geração de cineastas mulheres e negras
Jéssica Queiroz, Barbara Maria and Ana Julia are just three of a rising collective of black Brazilian women filmmakers

Lygia Pereira, 25, is a graduate of Midialogy from Unicamp (State University of Campinas) and currently holds a master’s degree from ECA/ USP (School of Communication and Arts, University of São Paulo). She says that problems of representativeness begin in the traditional curriculum of the audiovisual course: “The references end up being always men and whites. So, for you to study something different, you have to run after it. I realize that the references are still loaded with this tradition that has not been contested for a long time.”

In the opinion of the master’s student, betting on real stories, written by people who feel the situations portrayed from up close, is the ideal way to hit the visibility and representation of the black population.

In addition to the problem of gender inequality, we still perceive the issue of the deficit of public policies and financing of projects that promote audiovisual productions by blacks. Apan (Associação dos Profissionais do Audiovisual Negro/Association of Black Audiovisual Professionals), founded in 2016, is one of the only Brazilian institutions to promote black audiovisual production. Besides the valorization and dissemination of their achievements, they also promote black professionals within the Brazilian audiovisual market. Apan’s main idea is to combat stereotypes of the image of black men and women in audiovisual productions, because of this they seek to build political pillars of appreciation of blackness and the defense of these interests in an inclusive way.

Writer and director Carol Rodrigues, winner of the Short-Affirmative edict, made to make the short film “A Boneca e o Silêncio” possible, is the creator of the website Mulheres Negras no Audiovisual Brasileiro (Black Women in the Brazilian Audiovisual), a page that, according to its founder, aims to give more visibility to women within the audiovisual scenario, thus fighting gender inequality in the niche.

Afroflix platform is presenting new possibilities of exposure for black filmmakers

Another initiative that moves towards representativeness within the audiovisual market is AFROFLIX. The platform provides audiovisual content online and guarantees that all its productions have at least one black person as responsible for the area of artistic or technical performance, allowing the user to find films, series, web series, clips, vlogs and various programs produced, written, directed and/or with black people as protagonists. Besides the experience as a spectator, the platform allows producers and directors to make their content available or to indicate other productions that may be part of the catalog.

Despite the problems of inequality and lack of public incentive, it is through private initiatives like these that the audiovisual scene is beginning to diversify, following the pace of society’s evolution towards equity at all levels.

The report was originally published in AFROCULT Magazine. Created as a course work by journalists Giovanna Monteiro, Marina Sá, Mayara Oliveira and Thais Morelli at Anhembi Morumbi University, the magazine aims to be a didactic tool to help combat racism in the country.

Source: Alma Preta

About Marques Travae 3747 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.

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