New film, Raça (race), presents blacks as the central theme in the fight for racial equality and makes history in Brazilian cinema

Documentary "Raça" opened nationally on May 17th
Documentary “Raça” opened nationally on May 17th

Film produced by Joel Zito Araújo is in theaters all over Brazil. (See trailer, with English subtitles and a description at bottom of article)

From left to right: journalist Maria Paula, filmmaker Joel Zito, senator Paulo Paim, quilombo resident Miúda, minister Luiza Bairros, president of president of the Palmares Foundation, Hilton Cobra and American filmmaker Megan Mylan
From left to right: journalist Maria Paula, filmmaker Joel Zito, senator Paulo Paim, quilombo resident Miúda, minister Luiza Bairros, president of president of the Palmares Foundation, Hilton Cobra and American filmmaker Megan Mylan

Please see the blog’s original coverage of this film here

by Denise Porphyry of the Communications Office of the Fundação Cultural Palmares  (Palmares Cultural Foundation)

An opportunity for reflection on racial issues in Brazil is the proposal of the movie Raça which was shown last Wednesday (May 15th) at the premiere at the Cine Itaú, in the capital city of Brasília. The film has been playing in cinemas all over Brazil since May 17th and promotes a debate on racial inequality, pointing out the need for affirmative action policies.

Filmmaker Joel Zito Araújo discusses his new film
Filmmaker Joel Zito Araújo discusses his new film

The work, conducted in partnership between filmmaker Joel Zito Araújo and American documentarian Megan Mylan, registers sneak peeks behind the scenes of the Congresso Nacional (National Congress), the creation of the only black Brazilian TV network, TV da Gente (now defunct), the reality of the quilombo Linharinho in the southeastern state of Espírito Santo, in a moment in history where the racial debate has became constant in public discourse and in the media.

Senator Paulo Paim
Senator Paulo Paim

Filmed between 2005 and 2011, the directors have closely followed the daily lives of Senator Paulo Paim, singer and entrepreneur Netinho de Paula and the quilombo resident Miúda dos Santos – three black personalities working in the fight for equality.

Netinho de Paula at the headquarters of the TV da Gente TV channel
Netinho de Paula at the headquarters of the TV da Gente TV channel

“The intention was to promote knowledge and produce a balanced film and respectful to the public, even those who are diverging from affirmative policies. The proposal is to ensure justice for such a massacred parcel of the population,” says Joel Zito.

Quilombo resident Miúda dos Santos in the struggle for the rights to ancestral land
Quilombo resident Miúda dos Santos in the struggle for the rights to ancestral land

Unprecedented action – A novelty of national cinema was the decision of the directors of the film to donate proceeds from the box office to the Fundo Baobá para Equidade Racial (Baobab Fund for Racial Equity), a nonprofit organization that aims to mobilize people and resources in Brazil and abroad to support pro-racial equality projects.

At the time of the premiere, Athayde Motta, director of Baobá, spoke about the importance of supporting institutions that fight against racism. “What this film does is show many blacks making policies, deconstructing the imagination of those who judge us as unable to organize ourselves politically. It shows that affirmative policies in this country are made by us,” he said.

Athayde Motta, director of the Baobá Fund for Racial Equality
Athayde Motta, director of the Baobá Fund for Racial Equality

The president of the Fundação Cultural Palmares (Palmares Cultural Foundation) (1), Hilton Cobra, drew attention to the importance of the work of the institution in certifying quilombo areas and proposes that the film will be available for all quilombo regions especially those who face greater conflict.

The Minister of the Secretaria de Políticas de Promoção da Igualdade Racial (Seppir or Secretariat for the Promotion of Racial Equality), Luiza Bairros congratulated the directors for the initiative to confront explicit Brazilian racism in the discourse of some parliamentarians. She said the quilombo issue is and will be a major priority of the struggle for equal rights. “Everything that was shown in the movie is still in process, they are are three stories that intersect and work hard for the best outcome,” she says.

Raça – The film begins with Miúda making chants from the Nagô nation in protection in the fight against an exploitative cellulose company. “Blacks made and makes this beautiful Brazil. We want our land to be demarcated and titled so that our children can have access to the public policy of access to land, education and housing,” pointed out the quilombo resident. “Our struggle is for ensuring rights of traditional quilombos and the preservation and respect of communities of African origin,” she added.

One of the moments of the film that caused excitement in the audience, is the scene in which the only black senator in Brazil, Paulo Paim quoted Zumbi, Mandela and Gandhi during a public hearing that challenged the constitutionality of the quota system. “I am proud to work on this initiative, we’ve made great strides, but there is still much to do. The film will help us in our journey in search of the taste of permanent victory in our struggle,” said Paim, after viewing the film.

In a pioneering experience as an entrepreneur of TV da GenteA TV que tem a cor do Brasil (The People’s TV – The TV that has the color of Brazil), Netinho Paula talks about the lack of racial democracy in Brazilian television. The TV channel was distributed throughout Brazil, parts of Europe and throughout South Africa “The channel was designed for everyone, I want to make room for black professionals and deal with social diversity as a whole,” he said in the film.

Source: Palmares

Trailer for Raça (with English subtitles) 

Note from BW of Brazil: Below is a little background on a few scenes presented in the trailer broken down by time marker of the video.

0:43 – “We only have one black senator, and you are talking to him.” – Afro-Brazilians are extremely under-represented in Brazil’s Congress. In this scene, Senator Paulo Paim who is fighting to have the Estatuto da Igualdade Racial (Statute of Racial Equality) passed. The law that would eventually pass in July of 2010 was idealized as a means to bring more racial equality to Brazil through legal methods such as the affirmative action system of quotas for descendants of Africans and indigenous peoples to attend Brazil’s federal universities. Paim refers to himself as the country’s only black senator although others also consider Magno Malta from the southeastern state of Espírito Santo to be a black, brown or Afro-Brazilian senator.

0:53 – Struggle for the rights to quilombo lands. A quilombo (from the Kimbundu word kilombo) is a Brazilian hinterland settlement founded by people of African origin. Most of the inhabitants of quilombos (called quilombolas) were escaped slaves. For more on quilombos see here and a similar struggle over quilombola lands in the northeastern state of Bahia see here.

1:00 – “People say, ‘why a channel just for blacks? That’s reverse racism.'” – Here entertainer and politician Netinho de Paula talks about accusations that a TV network for Afro-Brazilians is reverse racism. These types accusations are amazing when one considers the overwhelming whiteness of Brazil’s TV programs, magazine covers, modeling runways, literature, journalism profession, government, the media in general and countless other genres. Filmmaker Spike Lee also commented on this on his trips to Brazil to film an upcoming documentary. De Paula is currently the Secretary of Racial Equality in the adminsitration of current São Paulo mayor Fernando Haddad

1:14 – “This Act is not going to create any equality. Just the opposite. It’s going to create a divide in a society where it doesn’t exist.” For many years, Brazil promoted itself as a “racial democracy” where racial discrimination and racism didn’t exist and where various races lived together in complete harmony. Despite the overwhelming evidence of the existence of racial inequality between white Brazilians and black Brazilians, the topic was for many years either completely denied, not spoken about or deflected by pointing the finger at the United States as a racist country.

1:22 – “Black women were raped in Brazil. Our miscegenation was created by rape. Clearly things were much more consensual.” Brazil’s history of slavery includes the widespread rape, sexual coercion and exploitation of black women. Former Senator Demóstenes Torres provoked outrage among black women’s organizations when he made this statement that was taken as an attempt to minimize the existence of the sexual violence during Brazil’s colonial era. This topic was discussed in the context of the rape of the lead black female character on a Brazilian TV series last year.


1. The name Palmares has tremendous importance in black Brazil’s cultural history. Countless organizations and groups throughout the country use the name of this famous runaway slave society from the 17th century and it is also the name of Brazil’s only black college.

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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