‘Sem Asas’ (no wings), film about police murder of black boys, wins ‘Brazilian Oscar’ for best short fiction

Note from BBT: It’s a topic that needs to be discussed. I knew there was a serious problem when I started reading reports on the number of deaths that were caused by police actions in Brazil back in 2003. The numbers were shocking. But even knowing the numbers, it wasn’t until I started keeping up with the individual stories, the faces and families affected by these actions. Then, starting this blog and seeing how often black Brazilians, adults, teens and children, have their lives ended because of police violence deepened the issue on a personal level, especially as I now look at this country through the eyes of a father.

Bullets fired by police in this country have no regard for the age of its victims as we’ve seen so many times not just in 2020, but for years before. People outside of Brazil should know the situation of the black population and how meaningless these lives seem to be in the eyes of the nation’s leaders. Maybe my assessment that this is possibly a unspoken policy of genocide really is true. I can’t really think of any other possible answer to the madness. The fear of black mothers not seeing their children return after they leave the house. The shots. The black bodies constantly falling. The tears of families and communities. The protests. And the funerals.

Today’s piece not only speaks to that important issue but it also speaks to the difficulty black filmmakers have in getting their productions funded and filmed. Even after jumping through so many hoops to see the miracle of getting their works produced, and even winning awards for their productions, this doesn’t mean the road necessarily gets easier, nor does it mean that the average Brazilian will ever even see their work much less know their names.

The Black Brazil Today blog clearly doesn’t have the reach of a New York Times or Folha de São Paulo, but I still felt like people should know about this critical situation as well as the award-winning filmmaker that put it on film.

Produced by a filmmaker from Itaquera, film ‘Sem Asas’ wins national award

The filmmaker was awarded in the short fiction category for the film Sem Asas about a story based on the genocide of the black population

By Lucas Veloso

Seven years ago, a student named Douglas Martins Rodrigues, 17, went out to look for a key ring and didn’t return home alive. He was shot by military police on October 27, 2013 in Jardim Brasil, in the north zone of São Paulo. According to witnesses, after the shooting, he asked the police officer “Why did you shoot me?”

Film won award at the 2020 Grande Prêmio do Cinema Brasileiro

Born and raised in Cidade Líder, in east zone São Paulo, the boy’s case was the trigger for Renata Martins to write the script for Sem Asas (no wings), a story that reflects on the murder of black boys in the country. On October 11, the film took the Grande Prêmio do Cinema Brasileiro 2020 (Grand Prize of Brazilian Cinema 2020) in the category of best short fiction.

Renata Martins produced the film that addresses violence against black youth

“I asked myself a lot of questions, but I had no answer,” says Renata. “How is it that a teenager leaves Sunday afternoon and doesn’t come back? What makes a military policeman take the life of an innocent young man who was no danger to society?”.

According to the latest data released in the Anuário Brasileiro de Segurança Pública de 2020 (2020 Brazilian Public Security Yearbook), released on October 18, most of the police victims in the country are black men.

Among police victims, 74.3% are young people up to 29 years old. In the consolidated numbers of violent deaths last year, young blacks also form the most vulnerable profile. Among the 47 thousand people murdered, more than 35 thousand (74.4%) were black and 24.3 thousand were under 29 years old.

The filmmaker says that the image of black and peripheral mothers who wielded their children’s workbooks to say that they were not criminals has become recurrent. “One thing is certain: if the country is racist, young blacks are not safe anywhere in Brazil”.

Renata thought about elements in an attempt to humanize black families. Among them, school, professional growth, affection and dreams. “All the people who were murdered had dreams, as did their families. My challenge was to invite the public to spend time with that black family and try to measure the imminence of the loss.”

The scenes of the film were shot in Cidade Líder, in the Itaquera region, where the director lives. The recording had the collaboration of the residents and local production of Fabiana Pereira, a neighbor who is knowledgeable of the region. She led the team through the neighborhood and explained to residents about the filming, which took place over the course of four days.

The short was written in 2014. Since then, Renata has tried to attain a few edicts, but the project was not well received by the evaluators. In 2016, Spcine, the city’s cinema and audiovisual company, launched the first affirmative edict for proposals for black, indigenous short filmmakers, the LGBTQI + community, women and people with disabilities.

Film ‘Sem Asas’ was shot in the east zone of São Paulo

Sem Asas was considered among the more than 800 registered projects, but there was a problem between Spcine and TCU (Federal Audit Court). The edict was canceled. The team signed up for another selection process and was awarded again.

“The short had to win twice to exist. Only this selection process says a lot about the challenges of black professionals to produce their narratives,”observes Renata. “Without that money, it would be very difficult to achieve the technical result we achieved”.

References and actors

The film portrays the interaction in the family of the student Zu, a 12-year-old boy, who after leaving home to buy flour for his mother, finds himself between dream and reality.

Early in the film, Zu says he wants to be a bulletproof superhero. Renata says that the intention was to reference that black children perceive the risk that they live in society from an early age. “It’s a direct reference to ‘Luke Cage’, a Marvel character. He was the first black superhero to have his own magazine, created in 1972.”

The filmmaker explains that black children, peripheral or not, are exposed to various physical violence, so the desire to be a bulletproof superhero seems like a possible dream. The comment in the middle of the pre-school graduation game allows for several readings and reflections.

She says the question ‘What do you want to be when you grow up’ is an arrow launched into the future and there is only a future if there is life. “Surviving extermination attempts is the primary condition for walking or flying into the future. Basically, Zu and all black children just want to have the fundamental and primordial right to life. If reality doesn’t give you the right to dream, to the future, that at least cinema, fantastic realism does,” she summarizes.

Recording of the film ‘Sem Asas’

To compose the family, the central axis of the production, Renata used memories of other productions that she had enjoyed. Actress Grace Passô, Jussara, Zu’s mother, was followed by the filmmaker for years after Amores Surdos, a 2012 play.

Grace Passô and Kaik Pereira in a scene from ‘Sem Asas’

The actor and protagonist Kaik Pereira was seen by Renata in the Globo TV series 13 dias longe do sol. “His participation was very small, but the presence on screen was huge. Kaik brings with him a very special look, one that sees beyond,” explains Renata, who looked for the boy on social networks to make the invitation.

Young actor Kaik Pereira stars as Zu

The father is played by multi artist Melvin Santhana. “He had already participated in some series and clips and had a good relationship with the camera. He brings a certain sweetness of gestures and sensitivity to racial issues, I thought he and Kaik would make good partners; father and son,” says Renata. “When everyone accepted, I was sure that I was able to compose the family I dreamed of for the film”

Kaik Pereira and Melvin Santhana as father and son in ‘Sem Asas’

Blacks in cinema

Despite having her name on the award, Renata indicates that winning the award was important, not only for her as a director and screenwriter, but for all black people involved with Brazilian cinema.

“The award for best film is far from the merit of the director alone, but of all the people who shared their artistic and technical knowledge for making the film, in this case, a team composed mostly of black women,” she points out.

She points out that the initial proposal was to bring together black professionals and non-black allies to create a safe environment for learning and exchange. “The road is very long and often lonely. But here we have a film that flew high and showed that it is possible.”

Source: Agência Mural

About Marques Travae 3721 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.

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