Note from BBT: As the title of the piece below says, it’s black Brazil’s turn to shine in the media. For years, this blog as well as other news outlets outside of Brazil have talked about how European Brazil appears to be when you look at its media outlets. University dissertations have talked about this. As have Al Jazeera and even prominent black Americans who have visited the country (see here and here).
Of course, if you’re not one to analyze the media with a critical eye, it may never occur to you. But as black Americans have long dealt with the same situation in the United States, the lack of black faces on Brazil’s small screen, as well as its big screen is quite obvious. And it’s not just the low representation. We must also factor in the types of characters that black Brazilians are often chosen to portray.
Even as I’m honest enough to admit that things are slowly changing in Brazil, I also have to be able to point out that, even with some advances in the last decade, the invisibility of Brazilians of visible African descent was so low at the end of the 90s and the beginning of the 21st century, that the small improvements aren’t nearly enough to suddenly make any declaration of media equity.
I remember citing a report from years ago that basically said that Brazil wasn’t comfortable with seeing black Brazilians in prominent roles or presenting middle-class lifestyles as often as black Americans were portrayed in the us media. That’s saying something because still today, reports show how under-represented and stereotyped African-Americans continue to be in American media.
Having waited for so long for some sort of change, Afro-Brazilians finally reached a point that they understood that complaining and requesting change of the mainstream media was getting them nowhere. This realization along with the advances in technology and independent means of presenting the black narrative have opened up a world of endless possibilities for Afro-Brazilians entrepreneurs and content creators who know how to make the most of the newly formed opportunities in the market.
This independent media is something I’ve kept my eye on for some time and now we are seeing the emergence of some key players in the media market that know what black Brazilians want to see and have the capacity to provide quality content.
OUR TURN – Invisible on small screen, black Brazilians create their own ‘TV channels’
By Kely Ribeiro
American series such as Everybody Hates Chris (‘Todo Mundo Odeia o Chris’ in Brazil), My Wife and Kids (known as ‘Eu, a Patroa e as Crianças’ in Brazil) and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Aire (known as ‘Um Maluco no Pedaço’ in Brazil) have always been a huge success in Brazil, but we don’t usually see audiovisual productions created and carried out by black people on our screens.
That, finally, is changing. Something similar to movements such as the Teatro Experimental Negro (1944-1961), of Abdias do Nascimento, and the creation of the Geledés institute, of Sueli Carneiro, in 1988, still in operation, is happening. And these hit series are inspirational.
The goal is to fill another gap, this time in entertainment, through the enhancement of Afro-Brazilian culture and memory.
The Splash website spoke with the creators of Wolo TV, Lab Fantasma TV, Trace Brazuca and Afro TV, who identified this gap as an opportunity and turned it into a business, instead of disputing space in already consolidated media.
Other platforms such as Todesplay, from the Associação de Profissionais do Audiovisual Negro (Association of Black Audiovisual Professionals or Apan) and Afroflix (created by award-winning filmmaker Yasmin Thayná) also start from this same premise of meeting consumer demands while bringing new perspectives to the audiovisual sector.
Social and economic slant
In May 2020, brothers Emicida and Fióti launched Lab Fantasma TV. The channel, on Twitch (video and live streaming service), has daily programming and attractions that cover music, activism, games and well-being.
This is another branch of Laboratório Fantasma, a company founded by the brothers 12 years ago, encompassing event production, record label, publisher and streetwear brand.
”Emicida and I always dreamed of having a radio and a TV with a public concession to be able to break with racism in entertainment. We face this a lot in the music industry… But, in the environment in which we live, we realized that digital would be the most practical and fastest way to propose this path.” – Evandro Fióti, director and founding partner of Lab Fantasma
Digital was also the choice of Afro TV. An Instagram profile was the basis for creating the platform. Paulo Rogério Nunes, co-founder of the channel, also says that a study helped in this direction. In it, demands and the profile of the black content consumer in Brazil were mapped, pointing out a great potential in several areas.
From there, diversity consultant and other partners —filmmaker David A. Wilson and Caribbean entrepreneur Fabien Anthony—launched the platform in late 2020, exploring the areas of beauty, economics and behavior.
Faced with the same scenario, Angolan actor and director Licínio Januário and technology director Leandro Lemos created Wolo TV, a streaming service in the pay-per-view model that also values its black protagonism in front and behind the cameras.
Wolo TV’s first production is the comedy Casa da Vó, a series that had more than 60 professionals involved, 99% of them black. In the cast, singer and actress Margareth Menezes, in her first starring role, and rapper Rincón Sapiência.
Trace Brazuca, on the other hand, is part of the French group Trace, present in over 160 countries. The channel debuted in Brazil in July 2020, becoming the first of its kind on closed TV — the same year that television completed 70 years here.
The channel’s Marketing Head, Ad Júnior, reveals that bringing it here was an old dream of Frenchman Olivier Laouchez, president of Trace. A meeting with São Paulo businessman José Papa finally materialized the idea.
”They understood that diversity was a key factor to raise important discussions here and, above all, they understood that it is also a business and should be placed there.” – Ad Júnior, Head of Marketing at Trace Brasil
Sitcom in 5 episodes of half an hour each. Inspired by series such as Everybody Hates Chris and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Aire, the production tells the life of Teresa (Margareth Menezes), a successful former civil servant who lives in the traditional São Paulo neighborhood of Jabaquara. She houses her four grandchildren and will help them face difficulties and achieve the success they aspire to.
‘Na Prosa com Monique’ (Lab Ghost TV)
Entrepreneur and activist Monique Evelle presents the talk show that has already received names such as actress Zezé Motta, city councilor Erika Hilton, actor Sérgio Malheiros and singer Ivete Sangalo. The conversation is about career, well-being, self-care and connections. Chats take place live on the platform and are available to channel subscribers.
‘Trace Trends’ (Trace Brazil)
Electronic magazine focused on music, shown by Rede TV!, every Tuesday at 10:45 pm. The attraction broadcasts video clips and receives guests for conversations on subjects related to music, as well as ancestry, fashion, design and lifestyle. The singers Paula Lima, Luedji Luna and Teresa Cristina have already been there. Currently, the program is hosted by Alberto Pereira Jr. and Xan Ravelli.
Kwanzaa Special on Afro TV
About to launch its own platform, Afro TV has been producing specials for social media, such as the series about Kwanzaa – a Pan-African celebration, focused on family and community. It takes place from December 26th to January 1st and contains a series of teachings. The special explains its origin, diffusion and realization.
The growing interest in black narratives is a global phenomenon. An example is Lupin, starring Omar Sy. The French series was watched by more than 70 million Netflix subscribers worldwide within days of its January 8 release.
”Black narratives speak to the entire world. Wolo emerged to value and enhance black narratives and diversity in Brazil, expanding these narratives. The world wants to know our stories.” – Licínio Januário
Licínio also believes that much of this change is due to the internet. After all, the wide access to information has changed the way of consumption in general — Napster and the streamings that say:
”The internet has made consumers more independent from traditional channels, understanding that they have the power to choose. He’s the boss.”
Fióti, on the other hand, emphasizes that this transformation in the audiovisual sector in Brazil is also a reflection of struggles that have been demanding more participation from blacks in different fields of society.
“It is not a movement that is happening momentarily. It has been a movement guided by militancy and the black movement for decades. It has to do with an entire institutional political chain and, mainly, due to the pressure of black women, black men, quilombolas, who daily demand their retribution and, above all, their valorization in this scenario.”
Despite the interest of the public, the creators are faced with the difficulty of finding investors, especially here in the country. The alternative has been to seek resources abroad.
”This is a big bottleneck because the Brazilian market is still very closed, based on recommendations and almost always doesn’t understand this topic. We have focused on international investors.” – Paulo Rogério Nunes, of Afro TV
Afro TV’s main contribution is from AFAR Ventures, a company of black investors based in the United States. Just like Afro, Wolo and Trace relied on large international investments to get off the ground.
Wolo, in turn, was encouraged by the Dima fund, a business consultancy in Qatar, in addition to investments made by the family of the creators, Licínio and Leandro.
”Quite frankly, Brazil is still very raw in relation to investment in the audiovisual sector. Especially in relation to the US, where this is very common and has a much smaller black population. Here it will take a while for investment in audiovisual to become something normal.” – Licínio Januário
Rogério adds that it is necessary to have an understanding by the brands that every media start-up needs initial support to grow:
Today’s big broadcasters weren’t born that big. On our side, we are very interested in talking to brands so that we can grow together, in the same way with investors and obviously with our audience.
Digital startup of black content about entertainment, beauty, economy and behavior. It has representation as the focus of its productions, created by a team specializing in the subject. The head office is in Salvador, but the goal is to have correspondents in other regions of Brazil and the world. The programs are available on all the startup’s social networks and in the future will also be on its own website, expected to be launched this year.
Streaming platform with content focused on the black population. It debuted at the end of December with the launch of the sitcom A Casa da Vó, starring singer and actress Margareth Menezes and with a special guest appearance by rapper Rincón Sapiência. There are five episodes that can be watched for BRL 8.99, which is currently worth less than about 2 US dollars. For this, users need to download the Wolo TV app on their cell phone, tablet or computer. Other series and original films are already in production.
Trace Brasil is divided into two fronts: the cable channel Trace Brazuca, through the operators Claro and Vivo; and the program ‘Trace Trends’, on Rede TV!. The common thread for both is the appreciation of Afro-urban and peripheral culture, especially through music. The programming varies between author and outside material, mixing entertainment and educational content, such as documentaries.
Lab Fantasma TV
The channel is available on Twitch (video and live streaming service for Mac, PC, Android and iOS), with daily programming aimed at subscribers (BRL 24.99/month or about 5 US dollars). These are interviews with names that relate to the universe of Lab Fantasma, with a focus on black music and culture. The grid mixes content of well-being, games, music videos and DJing, among others.
Blacks in front and behind the camera
These are symbolic changes, but still not enough for the black Brazilian population to see themselves represented on screens and find space to work in the audiovisual sector.
Licínio Januário mentions the role that traditional media plays in the construction of popular imagination. And how this construction generally marginalizes black people, sometimes portraying them in a stereotyped way.
”We are far behind the world, the changes that are taking place here are not equivalent to our needs, which are urgent. We need to change the image of the black population in the mainstream media. The newspaper has always contributed to our death by portraying us as outlaws. Cinema has always contributed to our deaths by portraying us as outlaws, tricksters.” – Licínio Januário
Fioti recognizes that, despite advances, this type of content still does not reach the masses.
“It’s a bubble that has made legitimate and grandiose constructions in the face of an oppressive system. This change should be even more urgent than what has been happening, but the country’s setbacks impose many limitations on us.”
”Nobody is taking away one thing to place another. We aren’t doing a content replacement. We are simply expanding the range of audiovisual productions to new narratives that make sense to many Brazilians. This trend that has been going on outside Brazil for some time is more than welcome. There are still many stories to discover and much to share, show, teach and also learn.” – Ad Júnior, Head of Marketing at Trace Brasil