FAVELA RISING (Matt Mochary, Jeff Zimbalist). 82 minutes. Screens Saturday (August 11) at the Studio Theatre, Harbourfront Centre, as part of the Hot & Spicy Food Festival (August 10-12). Rating: NNNN
Anyone who's seen City Of God has some idea of the brutal lifestyle in the favelas, or illegal squatter settlements, of Rio de Janeiro.
Favela Rising presents an even more vivid depiction of the Brazilian ghettos. While blind to the bikini-clad glamour of postcard Rio, the camera fearlessly captures the frequent images in bold, saturated colour of guns, blood stains and urban decay in the corrupt, lawless slums.
The cinematic grit adds thick atmosphere to the HBO-produced film, which revolves around former drug pusher Anderson Sa . His frank, often terrifying testimony imbues the film with a deeply introspective voice as he describes going from nihilist to music-teaching revolutionary.
The film tracks Sa - who leads the wild, club-oriented movement called Afro-Reggae, which merges samba, hiphop and rock - as he fashions himself as the Pied Piper of Rio. He revolts against the drug-dominated society by redirecting kids toward the beats - and creates a new musical genre in the process.
Full of rich detail, this doc demonstrates both the severity of favela life and the very real power of music and dance to battle oppression.