According to sources in Brazil, filmmaker Spike Lee is planning to record a new documentary about the country that recently became the world’s 6th largest economy. The working title of the documentary is “Go Brazil, Go!” Although Lee’s desire to focus his latest “joint” in the land of Samba, soccer and sun is a definite sign that Brazil is gaining new exposure on the world stage, when I looked at the list of personalities that Lee would feature in his new documentary, I must admit I was a little disappointed. Upon arriving in Brazil in late April, Lee will meet with some of Brazil’s most popular public figures; people like former president Lula da Silva, current president Dilma Rousseff, musicians Jorge Ben, Gilberto Gil, Milton Nascimento and Chico Buarque as well as legendary soccer superstar Pelé. This is not to say that these people don’t deserve to be featured in a documentary about Latin America’s largest, most populous nation. My thing is, Lee has built his career on approaching controversial topics such as race, interracial relationships, the legendary, if often misunderstood human rights icon Malcolm X, and the horrific circumstances surrounding the Hurricane Katrina disaster.
Milton Nascimento and Gilberto Gil
If Spike should arrive to the Brazilian shores and not touch on the vast social and racial inequalities of this new player on the world stage, he may miss a golden opportunity to bring an international spotlight to the situation of Afro-Brazilians and the disdain and invisibility to which they are subjected by the Brazilian media. Yes, the Brazilian economy is now beginning to live up to the country’s nickname of “The Country of the Future”, but when one turns on a television station, takes a look at the magazine stands, model runways and the halls of the higher education, the Senate and House of Deputies, it won’t be hard to see which color skin color the country clearly favors.
While it is true that musicians Ben, Nascimento and Gil as well as the legendary Pelé are all black, Lee should seek Afro-Brazilians who knee deep in the struggle. In fact, given his record on the issue of race, if Lee were to speak to Pelé, he may come away thinking the country is a “Racial Democracy”, the myth that was killed by the Movimento Negro many years ago. There are a lot of influential and important Afro-Brazilian human and civil rights leaders, NGOs and stars that deserve Mr. Lee’s attention. If persons of African descent can’t depend on prominent African descendants to cover the story that the mainstream ignores, who can they depend on?
Some may know that Lee directed a music video for the late King of Pop, Michael Jackson, in the Dona Marta slum in Rio de Janeiro, and in the Pelourinho of Salvador, Bahia, in 1996. But if Spike wants to get the real deal about what’s going with black folks in Brazil, he can simply look at the titles of two of MJ’s songs for a point of reference: “They Don’t Care About Us” (which he directed), and “Black or White”. But word to MJ: In Brazil, it does matter if you’re black or white!
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview
If this comes to fruition, I trust that Spike will paint a fair and balanced picture of Brazil. There's no doubt in my mind that Spike will talk to the everyday folks…the Black folks who are the burden bearers. Spike always tells our tales. This should be great! I look forward to this.
spike lee is like other black american men: he looks out for the interest of black men and their likes and dislikes. look at his movies–he only wants to portray black women as beautiful if they look like beyonce or jane from "school daze". so, don't get too excited; he'll only show what interests him and those of his ilk.