Note from BBT: With demands for representation getting louder and louder and Brazilian media unwilling to put any resources behind productions created, produced and starring the black Brazilian population, creators have sought other ways to get their projects off the ground.
Casa da Vó, meaning ‘Grandma’s House’, is the online series created by director Licínio Januário in a partnership he formed with Brazilian filmmaker Leandro Lemos that debuted on Christmas day last year. It was released on the Wolo TV streaming platform, the first of its kind in Brazil. Januário is an Angolan who has lived in Brazil for several years and built numerous links within the Afro-Brazilian community, particularly in theatrical productions.
Wolo TV is a technology startup that he founded with Lemos, who has more than 20 years of experience in the technology field in both Brazil and the United States. For Januário, the main goal of the project is to “promote the intellectual and economic empowerment of the black population in Brazil, as a way to help give greater visibility to the artistic creation of Afro-descendants and the black community in this South American country.”
Brazil is Latin/South America’s largest, most populous countries and has the largest population of African ancestry in the region.
For years, Afro-Brazilians have loved American produced sitcoms such as The Fresh Prince of Bel-Aire, My Wife and Kids and Everybody Hates Chris, so there has long been a question of why Brazil can’t produce series like these starring an Afro-Brazilian population that is bursting with creativity and talent.
As the partners were unsuccessful in attempts to attract investment from Brazilian sources, they sought foreign investors who quickly realized the explosive potential of investment in Brazil’s large community of African descent
Januário and Lemos received an initial investment of $1.2 million Brazilian reais, which at the time was worth about $230,000 American dollars. With the capital, the partners wer able to produce Wolo TV’s first original series. Their step is for the startup is to secure another 4 million reais funding for the production of more content. As Januário recently said in an interview with Forbes Brasil magazine, the solution for black Brazilian entrepreneurs who seek resources and are not finding support in Brazil, the solution is to seek resources outside of Brazil. Perhaps other Afro-Brazilians should start taking this advice.
Casa da Vó, new Brazilian comedy series inspired by Todo Mundo Hates Chris
By Laysa Zanetti
Axé/Afro-Pop singer Margareth Menezes had already made a small special appearance in the series O Canto da Sereia (2013), but it is with the recently released Casa da Vó that the singer and composer is experiencing her first protagonist on television.
“After I really saw what the series was about, the dimension of the project, I realized that it would all be very challenging. After all, there were six chapters, with 35 pages and big speeches, with a dynamic totally different from everything I’ve ever done,” said Margareth to Notícias da TV.
Casa da Vó will follow the story of Teresa, a successful and former civil servant who lives in the traditional São Paulo neighborhood of Jabaquara. In her home, she shelters her four grandchildren who move to the capital of São Paulo in an attempt to succeed in life.
Each episode is 30 minutes long, and the series is shown on Wolo TV, a new national streaming platform dedicated exclusively to content focused on the black population.
“I received the invitation from Licínio Januário [creator], and it was a big surprise when I found out that I would be playing the main character of the series”, confesses the singer. “I didn’t expect it, especially at this very different time of the pandemic. But it was a great gift to be able to revisit that side of the scene. It really moved me a lot.”
For Licínio Januário, who created the series and idealized the platform, Casa da Vó is an opportunity to debate a serious matter through laughter.
“The story talks about the consequence of structural racism, which makes young blacks not have decent opportunities in the job market. This is one of the most discussed subjects in Brazil today, mainly due to the Vidas Negras Importam (Black Lives Matter) movement,” he says.
“On the other hand, the history of the series also shows how black people manage to hold their heads up, smile and move on, even in the face of so much adversity,” he ponders.
The series debuted on December 25 allowing viewers to purchase the program individually in the pay-per-view model (when users only pay for the series and films they wants to watch). To do this, all a viewer needs to do is access the platform website and make the purchase.
Januário explains that the objective is to show the black diversity that exists in Brazil.
“The series has a 99% black cast, breaking the stereotypes that television has always put out on black people. We made a point of showing our diversity, having black actors from different states, representing light, positive and inspiring characters,” he says.
For Margareth Menezes, in addition to all this, playing Teresa is also an opportunity to acquire new learnings and keep growing within the artistic area.
“It was all very new and different for me. But it was also an important process of maturation. And the experience of working with that team, those actors, was fantastic,” she celebrates. “It was all very well constructed, the humor is very intelligent, and it is very, very fun. Playing a grandmother was really cool. And grandma is on it!”
Note from BBT: As Ana Paula Xongani is a multi-entrepreneur of Afro-Brazilian fashion, the construction of imagery on black aesthetics is obviously a topic very near and dear to her heart. And with her background and experience, it was the fashion elements of the program that caught her attention as she explores below.
A Casa da Vó: A great series tip for rough times
By Ana Paula Xongani
Anyone who follows me is already aware that everything that concerns clothes is like a costume – and whoever follows me already knows that I learned it from my mother. Every outfit says something, has an idea, a narrative, a purpose.
And it was with great joy that I was able to follow these days the beautiful work of Fernanda Garcia, a costume designer on the series A Casa da Vó, recently launched, which also marks the debut of WoloTV, a streaming platform dedicated to black narratives.
Starring the goddess Margareth Menezes and directed by Licínio Januário, Casa da Avó is a balm. A balm of references built with talent and beauty, from research work that respects and also pays homage to what black bodies communicate from their existence, and also from their clothes.
The series, which also features rapper Rincon Sapiência, Johnny Klein, Jessica Cores, DJ Pelé, Sol Menezzes, Kiara Felippe, influencer Jacy Lima, Cadu Libonati, Diego Becker, actor Wilson Rabelo, Érica Ribeiro and Dum Ice, is a great comedy, especially for those who miss important series that brought black references into pop culture in audiovisual, such as Eu, A Patroa e as Crianças (My Wife and Kids), Todo Mundo Odeia o Cris (Everybody Hates Cris) and Um Maluco no Pedaço (The Fresh Prince of Bel Aire). In some ways, it seems that the series was inspired by these comedies and seeks to discuss structural racism through humor.
I had a super cool chat with this costume designer who has in her audiovisual trajectory, worked on the novela (soap opera) Lado a Lado, which took to TV, on Rede Globo, the story about the emergence of the first favela in Rio de Janeiro, Morro da Providência, in which she dressed actress Camila Pitanga, and actors Milton Gonçalves and Lázaro Ramos, who even invited her to be on the team of Medida Provisória, his film to soon be released.
When I watched the series, I can say that I watched the costumes, I was very enchanted. And, right away, I wanted to know from Fernanda what it was like to be on this job. “When I received Licínio’s invitation, I felt like Ruth Carter, the costume designer for several works by Spike Lee, because her works are true investigations of what the black community wants to represent from their clothes. I felt it would be a similar opportunity.”
She told me that being in a series that portrays the reality of a house led by a black woman, like so many we see out there, was very important. “It is the home of a grandmother, a great matriarch, who suddenly has her grandchildren all living with her. Then, she starts to understand the distinct personalities of each one and, starting from her convictions, doing everything possible to empower them, so that they are full in their powers. It’s quite beautiful.”
One of the things that we are quite used to seeing in audiovisual products with roles represented by black women and black men is the stereotyped image. Which, although it exists, is not unique and does not represent our aesthetic plurality.
In the series, Fernanda takes care of that very well. “There is capulana, but not only capulana, you know?”. Capulana a type of a sarong worn primarily in Mozambique but also in other areas of south-eastern Africa.
In addition, the characters are diverse, we have this grandmother, who teaches fit pagode, there’s the militant nerd, the afropati, and several other representations. She told me how she built each one. “Dressing Margareth was an accomplishment, first because I admired her so much, because I thought she was beautiful, spectacular, and also because she was the soul of the series. Everything happens around her. I didn’t want to make her look like a grandmother in a gown, you know? As much as this is a grandmother reference, I wanted something contemporary and strong. So, I created some new things, like African and Afro-Brazilians models in lycra, for example. She loved it and I was really happy.”
Johnny Klein’s character is a nerd, with recognizably political speech on the tip of his tongue. He is the one who wears many T-shirts with phrases that impact the anti-racist struggle. “We were among references from Malcolm X and a young Spike Lee. We decided for something more Malcom X,” she comments. There, there is the afropati, which allows for new aesthetics from the closest living with the grandmother and cousins; and many other characters. Always looking like someone we know. A delight to watch.
To build all this, with Suelen Massena and Agatha Pereira on the team, Fernanda had fashion names and accessories produced by black hands today, such as Isaac Silva, Ojire Art, Selloko Urban Style, XeidiArte, a toast.
In times when there is so much discussion about black representation in the audiovisual, how about taking care not to have just a single representation. How about if we were there on WoloTV to know the work of this mostly black team – more than 80% – and who did such a beautiful job in the series A Casa da Vó. I recommend it! I’m sure it will take you to other places. It will thrill you while having fun. It’s necessary for times like ours.
And to Fernanda Garcia, who you can meet and follow a little more here on her Instagram account, a huge thanks for the interview and for her work. May your desire to unveil the black plurality and translate so well in cinema, on TV, in music videos, in the streams out there be infinite. We love you. And thanks!