TV series Subúrbia, featuring a 90% black cast, being hailed as groundbreaking for Brazilian television

Series promises to be a landmark for Brazilian TV

With the presence of almost the entire cast of over 40 people and director Luiz Fernando Carvalho, the series Subúrbia was presented in a big party this past Thursday night (18) at the Galpão Aplauso, in Rio. The series debuts on Nov. 1 on the Globo network, and will feature eight episodes aired on Thursdays after the series Como Aproveitar o Fim do Mundo.

Fabrício Boliveiro and Érika Januza

In an atmosphere of great celebration, the team responsible for producing for the production sold it as a potential milestone for Brazilian TV because Subúrbia brings plenty of ingredients for this: it has at the same time, the hands of the acclaimed Luiz Fernando Carvalho, the unprecedented focus of the show featuring in a 90% black cast, and sheds light on the subúrbia (suburb) in a non-folkloric manner. Besides all of this, it’s betting on a cast of virtually unknown faces. The series will be shot on location mainly in Rio with some scenes recorded in the southeastern state of Minas Gerais.

Series features 90% black cast

It is also important to point out here that the term “subúrbia” or “subúrbio” is understood as the complete opposite of the meaning of its English translation “suburb” as used in the US. While the English term suburb as used in the US conjures up images of middle class lifestyles, the terms “subúrbio” and “peripheria” (periphery) as used in Brazilian Portuguese, are in some ways reminiscent of the images associated with the term “ghetto”, meaning a location outside of the central area of a city, the favela (slum/shantytown) an area inhabited by the poor and excluded from society. In the social imagination, it also conjures up images of various stereotypes, danger, against the grain lifestyles and drug trafficking.

Series focuses on history of Conceição and Cleiton

The series tells the story of Conceição (the debut of actress Érika Januza) who stole the show and the attention of photographers during the party) and Cleiton (Fabrício Boliveiro). The first comes Minas Gerais to try life in Rio de Janeiro and eventually taken in by a family in the subúrbio. Her story will be intertwined with that of Cleiton, a young man who is angry with the unjust laws of the subúrbio, of which he was a direct victim.

“The series will talk about the life of people in small places. Subúrbiais just a name that we can give it. What we’re really talking about is the essence of the people, and this is universal,” says Boliveira, one of the few cast members who has already been a consistent presence on television. The idea proposed by the text made by the four hands of writer and director Paulo Lins (writer of book and film Cidade de Deus/City of God) and director Carvalho, is, according to the actor, the protagonist of the show, present a new look for a family of humble communities.

Paulo Lins & Luiz Fernando Carvalho

Mozart in the suburbs
One of the pleasant surprises prepared by Luiz Fernando Carvalho and the production of the series was to bring back to the public the music producer and writer Haroldo Costa, but in his older skin: acting. Having pulled away from TV since the 1999’s Chiquinha Gonzaga series, he is delighted with the opportunity: “The series will even be a plus. Soon people will talk about series, novels, etc., saying: “before and after de Subúrbia. It’s a wonderful story that’s not seen on TV with assiduity.”

The actor will portray one of the most sensitive characters in the story, Aloísio, who opens his home to Conceição. The character is a patriarch of 80, an ordinary man, but with many “quirks”, as suggested by the actor himself. “He dances jongo (traditional black dance of southeast Brazil), likes Choro (type of Brazilian instrumental music), but at the same time took the children to see concerts at the Municipal Theater. Mr. Aloísio listens to classical music on the radio and puts on Mozart for the birds to hear,” he says excited about the role and making a point of making it clear that he only disappeared from TV due to a lack of invitations.

Costa and Rosa Maria Colin, portray the parents in Rio

‘Camera with another look’

Harold was just one of many that took advantage of the launch party of the show to compliment the director of the show. “The camera in his hand has another look.” One of the last to arrive at the party, Carvalho avoided labeling his series as something that “came to demystify the concept of suburbs” in spite of this being commonly accepted idea.

According to the director, Subúrbia was born from a history of his own, a contact that he had, for 25 years, with a black woman, who also came from Minas to Rio and that, like the protagonist Conceição, was taken in by a suburban family. In an emotional presentation that he made to the cast and of the story, the director paid tribute to show’s cast and team: “this cast taught me how to avoid the picturesque, the point of view from the outside, exclusionary and false.  It’s a political gesture. Denunciations remain inert from my day to day in the recording studio if there was no effort to understand the other.”

Newcomer Érika Januza as Conceição

At the side of Paulo Lins (author of the books City of God and Desde que o samba é samba) and Haroldo Costa, he made a point of dedicating the party to the cast. Most of it, formed by non-professionals and even non-actors in the case of the protagonist Érika Januza, discovered by chance in the city of Contagem in the metropolitan region of Belo Horizonte, the capital and largest city of Minas Gerais.

Rap group Panteras Negras

The intention was to give a naturalistic tone to the production and bring the story of a real universe. Ana Pérola a former street sweeper and dancer of the samba school Império Serrano, who plays Jessica, the protagonist’s rival, had also never worked with television. Another part of the team of actors on stage will be the group Nós do Morro, with headquarters in the community of Vidigal, in the south zone of Rio. Also cast were members of the rap group Panteras Negras (meaning Black Panthers), the theater group at Tá na Rua (It’s in the Street), and musicians from the well-known musical group, AfroReggae and Afro Samba as well as dancers from a samba school.

Note from BW of Brazil: 

While the reviews of the upcoming TV series Subúrbia appear to be promising considering the blatantly Eurocentric presentations and representation of Globo TV and the Brazilian media in general, we will continue to follow the development of this series with a critical assessment. Documentary and film maker Joel Zito Araújo, for example, has been outspoken about the under-representation and stereotypes of blacks in Brazilian film and television. Lúcia Loner Coutinho highlighted the difference between the stances of Paulo Lins and Araújo in her research which we cite below: 

“Despite mentioning the position of Paulo Lins (author of City of God) who stands in favor of the showing the great disparity between whites and blacks as a way to instigate reflection on prejudice, Lins’ argument is seen as “sectarian and somewhat lucid.” In opposition (are), Afro-Brazilian filmmakers Joel Zito Araújo and Jeferson De who affirmed that the best representation of blacks in film comes from black directors. Araújo comments that that “When you cite City of God and Elite Squad, for example, made ​​by white middle class directors of this country, I think they do a disservice to the population and the country to exacerbate violence and stylize it.” Raça Brasil, Brazil’s only magazine dedicated to the Afro-Brazilian community, also adds that such films show a misrepresentation, because there many blacks who don’t live the reality of slums and crime.”*

* – Cited from Coutinho’s dissertation: Antônia sou eu, Antônia é você: identidade de mulheres negras na televisão brasileira (Antônia is me, Antônia is you: Identity of black women in Brazilian television). 

See more on Subúrbia and more photos here of the cast here

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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