Note from BW of Brazil: Great news to share here but even in the good news there’s more than one side to reflect upon. Good news first. A pair of filmmakers, both black, female and Brazilian were invited to Cannes, France, for the showing of their short films in one of the most prestigious film festivals in the world. One other thing that these two talented women have in common is that they are both baianas, women from the northeastern state of Bahia, the center of Brazil’s African-oriented culture. One of them, Eliciana Nascimento, was actually featured here at BW of Brazil back in June of last year! Congratulations to both Eliciana and Viviane Ferreira, a member of the Odun black women’s production company who has called São Paulo home for a number of years now. It is an honor and a pleasure to present such great news about two up and coming filmmakers whose work has brought them such recognition! But their accomplishments also bring another point of reflection to the fore.
First, for such an accomplishment, why is it that this story wasn’t all over the press? After coming across this story from another blogger, a search for more details provided very few reports in the mainstream media. And why is that? I mean, it’s Cannes. Why wasn’t this story all over the press? It’s not hard to tell; after all, the lack of exposure, media invisibility as well as well-worn stereotypes of black Brazilian women is one of the principal focuses of this blog and as such, this doesn’t come as a surprise, but no less frustrating. It also shows once again that there are talented black Brazilians out there who have the skills, vision and creativity to accomplish things, break new ground and make advances in the struggle. But again, the problem is a very whitewashed Brazil.
People can continue to deny racism and black exclusion if they like, but I challenge anyone to name one well-known Afro-Brazilian filmmaker whose popularity isn’t only restricted to a small circle of black militants. Of course this blog is familiar with names such as Joel Zito Araújo and Jeferson De, and even though the works of these two men have won awards, the average Brazilian has never heard of them. Both of these directors have been in the game since the late 90s, have recorded a number of short films and documentaries but both have only managed to release one full-length, fictional film. Now imagine the struggle of the Afro-Brazilian female filmmaker! As pointed out in two recent posts, Brazil’s media continues to portray Afro-Brazilians according to long-lasting stereotypes (that is when they are presented) and in need of the “great, white savior”. As such, there has long been a need to support and provide opportunities for black Brazilians to tell their own stories, in a more dignified manner: for themselves and by themselves. And even more so in the case of the women! These are points that are not lost upon filmmaker Viviane Ferreira who shares her thoughts on these issues as well as the behind the scenes of her film and what it means for the Afro-Brazilian community. Check it below and also get a peek at the trailer at the end of the article.
Black Brazilian female filmmaker discusses loneliness in old age and ensures a space in Cannes
By Shirlene Marques – Originally posted in Postagens Negras
During the month of April, in search of my agendas I went “digging” in Facebook communities that discussed Brazilian black film and I encountered some people’s joy in celebrating the selection of a Brazilian film called O Dia de Jerusa (Jerusa’s Day) to be shown in the programming of short films at the Cannes Film Festival, which takes place in France until May 25. I saw a great image with photo of actress Léa Garcia, well known to many, and first I thought this film was the result of an already “seasoned” filmmaker.
Searching for the film in the mainstream media and finding any more profound texts, I stuck with Facebook as a research source. Everything called my attention to the posts that I saw and the inquiries arose: “How can (it be)? The newspaper says nothing about such a feat?” I went back and discovered that the film had been directed by a black baiana filmmaker who lives in São Paulo, named Viviane Ferreira. But who was she? What movie was this? I had little information up to that point, but a mind full of curiosities and goals.
I share, in this week, in which Viviane Ferreira is in Cannes-France, along with another black filmmaker, Eliciana Nascimento, the victory of two black Brazilian female filmmakers.
In this post I bring the result of an interview conducted by email with the young filmmaker Viviane. She talks about her ideas in the field of cinema; ideas that are sedimented in the certainty that Brazilian cinema needs to foster productions of black filmmakers so they can fly high.
O Dia de Jerusa is a reflection on old age, loneliness and youth
The circulated image of the short film brings us an elderly black lady, with a sad look, walking alone. From the existence of a concrete fact that is part of everyday life in the big cities: loneliness in old age. It portrays a fact that even we, produce in the rush of our days: the contribution of younger people to such a lonely world. This is a great reflection brought by the film directed by Viviane Ferreira and produced by Elcimar Pereira.
“One day I met a lady who was very bitter and complained about the absent behavior of her children. The pain that that woman conveyed when talking about her loneliness struck me so that I felt compelled to write something having loneliness as a focus, then the screenplay for the film O Dia de Jerusa emerged,” reveals the director.
The script was shelved two years and only began to materialize with the support of the company Odun Formação & Produção which is geared towards the production of cultural content with a perspective of gender. The producer Elcimar Dias Pereira was selecting projects, in 2010, to format and compete for bidding to finance films. The filmmaker’s script was one of those chosen to follow the path of a possible realization.
Viviane says that he was sure that it would be no use to work on the film in an amateur way and with few resources. According to her, Brazil doesn’t stimulate film production made by black men and women and lets many talents remain sidelined. Between the choice of script and project approval for some public funding edict it took two years.
“We wrote Jerusa in all the edict notices for short films, federal, state and local, until that in September 2012 we managed to win an edict for Promotion of Cinema of the Municipality of São Paulo,” recalls the director.
With the money in hand, the filmmaker succeeded in assembling a team and did the filming in March 2013. To interpret the role of Jerusha, long-time devoted black actress Léa Garcia was chosen to share scenes with the young actress Débora Marçal (Silvia). The short film revolves around an encounter between the two, between generations.
To portray the lonely everyday of Jerusa, Viviane decided to concentrate the filming in the famous Bixiga neighborhood of São Paulo. “I wrote the script describing that neighborhood, which keeps in itself an interwoven history with the trajectory of the black population of downtown São Paulo. We shot the scene of a homeless man, ‘Kleber’, reciting passages from the poem “Mãe (Mother)” by (black abolitionist) Luiz Gama, on Abolição street, this tells us a lot symbolically. We continued recording the scene of the “lovers on the street” on the corner of Abolição and Jardim Francisco Marcos; at this location was assembled the first headquarters of Odun Formação & Produção, the company that spurred the birth of the short film,” explained Viviane Ferreira.
Going to the screen
The capturing of the short was done in no time; there were two externals and two internals daily. “Our team composed of approximately 20 people lived at a blistering pace on a daily that sometimes exceeded 10 hours of work. However, the team held tight, supportive and happy, ensuring a very beautiful set, conducted by generosity,” says the director. The generosity question had the support of Viviane’s sister, who ceded her own house to being completely modified to serve as a backdrop.
Achievements from O Dia de Jerusa
In December 2013, the film was finalized and it didn’t take much time for the beginning of the travels and conquests. In the month of March, the short was screened at Zózimo Bulbul’s VII Encontro de Cinema Negro Brasil África Caribe (7th Annual Encounter of Black Cinema Brazil Africa Caribbean) in Rio de Janeiro, and on that day came a great positive outcome for the film: “We had just premiered the movie on opening night of the Encontro and shortly thereafter, we received the lovely news that the film had been selected to be shown at Cannes,” remembers Viviane who is in France representing the black Brazilian people.
This May of 2014 is an important moment for Brazilian filmmakers and Viviane Ferreira and Eliciana Nascimento, two black baiana women. They demonstrate that color should never be a hindrance to big dreams and projects. They also reveal the urgent need for support of good projects born in the minds of black Brazilian women. I couldn’t help wondering about the feeling Viviane had in going to show the film in Cannes and I leave here the conscious narrative of the need for changes to film production in Brazil:
“I’m sure being in Cannes means a lot to me and mine, I feel the intensifying of the responsibility that I assumed along with all that have contributed to my career. I’m going to Cannes with the tranquility that it’s not the spotlight of the glamour that drives me to make movies, but conscious that it’s important for us to shine light on the unequal reality that the audiovisual industry submits black Brazilian filmmakers to.
“Being in Cannes could be something routine among black filmmakers, if we didn’t face daily institutional racism. Like acts that impede, just once, that 30 young black students have their short films that could be a part of the programming of the Short Film Corner. Being in Cannes alongside Eliciana Nascimento representing my Bahia, my Brazil is assurance that we are not alone, it’s the result of the determination of our povo negro (black people) to keep their narratives recorded in the pupils of the world,” clarifies Viviane.