Note from BW of Brazil: Needless to say, we patiently await the opportunity to be able to view this important film! The film K-Bela, which is a play on the spelling of the words ‘que bela’, meaning ‘how beautiful’, has finally made its debut! Previously featured here in April and June, the short film written, directed and starring black women, is being hailed as a milestone in Brazilian film. But to fully understand the meaning of just the film’s release, we must once again approach the topic of yet another area in Brazilian society in which the presence of the black population is extremely minimized.
It is difficult enough for Afro-Brazilians to be cast in Brazilian films, and as such, one can imagine it being next to impossible for a black man or woman to write and produce their own work and also present a theme specifically discussing Afro-Brazilian issues. It’s not like the talent isn’t there. In past posts we’ve also brought you the work of Afro-Brazilian filmmakers such as Joel Zito Araújo, Viviane Ferreira and Eliciana Nascimento. They represent glimmers of light in a very dark tunnel that is extremely exclusionary when it comes to black talent.
As we’ve seen, black women playing a lead role in a Brazilian film represent only 4.4% of the all these roles. Even worse, black women sitting in the director’s chair of Brazilian films have zero representation! With such stats, one can understand why the release of this film should be seen as a major accomplishment.
Long-time actress Iléa Ferraz (below) is one of several black actresses who have spoken out on the necessity of black women in this, one of the most powerful vehicles of the mainstream media. As we know, film and television are principal avenues for the spread of a culture of white supremacy that often leads to the shame and denial of afro-textured hair and black identity that one can easily note throughout Brazil. Truth be told, it will take decades of films written, produced, directed and starring Afro-Brazilians to undo all of the psychological damage created by Brazil’s obsession with Eurocentrism. We can only hope that the success of K-Bela will begin to open the doors for similar films in the future.
Film K-Bela is an homage to all black women
Conceived and directed by Yasmin Thayná and collectively realized, K-bela grew out of a short story written by her about discovering that she was black and “assuming” her fios crespos (curly/kinky tresses). The process faced by most black girls throughout life, rejection of their own hair, submission to painful chemical processes to straighten and refusal of skin color are the central themes of the story, which was part of the publication of the Feira Literária das Periferias (Literary Fair of the Peripheries) and was shown during the Festival Home Theatre. After a three year process, Kbela was the first screening of the Odeon cinema since its reopening in May, with a predominantly black audience. There will also be three sessions of the film, on the 18th, 19th and 20th of this month, at 5:40pm
By Debora Pio
Kbela film honors all black women
A three-year process. First screening at the Odeon cinema since its reopening in May. A predominantly black audience. The Kbela film, which premiered last Saturday the 12th, can now be considered a milestone for Brazilian cinema. Rio de Janeiro experienced in short, #UmDiaNegroParaOCinema (A black day for cinema).
Conceived and directed by Yasmin Thayná and collectively realized, K-bela grew out of a short story written by her about discovering that she was black and “assuming” her fios crespos (curly/kinky tresses). The process faced by most black girls throughout life, rejection of their own hair, submission to painful chemical processes to straighten and refusal of skin color are the central themes of the story. The text ended up in the publication of Flupp (Literary Fair of the Peripheries) and then was shown in some homes for the Festival Home Theatre.
With repercussions of the two shows, the idea of “doing something with it” began to grow. “We wanted to do something but didn’t know exactly what. At first we thought about recording a video with someone reading or telling the story,” says Yasmin, who now is studying journalism at PUC.
Then she met with a collective of friends and made a public call through social networks inviting black girls to tell their stories. The story went viral and in less than a week the group received more than 100 e-mails from all over Brazil. The casting session was attended by about 40 girls from Rio de Janeiro and took place in a makeshift studio in the house of the collective’s members. This first meeting was a catalyst for the realization of a larger project, since all the stories shared that day said the same thing: being a woman and black is still an arduous task in Brazil.
“A friend shared a post with me and said it was my time. I have been in the process from the beginning, from the first casting session. Kbela helped me to discover myself in many ways. I am very grateful to Yasmin who put it out in the form of a telling all we black women have gone through and then transformed the story into this fantastic short (film). I have no words to describe, just to thank,” said an excited Dandara Raimundo who performs in one of the most iconic movie scenes.
With recordings almost completed, Yasmin was robbed and all the material filmed in the first stage was lost. Again the internet came as a main ally and crowdfunding was launched to help restart the entire process.
After the loss of the material and the need to start over almost from scratch, the project gained new contours, including the need to better structure and professionalize the work. The production featured video makers, costume designers, makeup artists, producers, musicians, cast preparers, programmers, etc. All professionals – most black women. With only $5,000 for the making of the film, everyone involved worked without receiving money.
The transsexual student Maria Clara Araújo came from Recife especially to work in short. “Yasmin called me on Facebook and invited me to participate in the recordings. I accepted on the spot, because trans women are not represented anywhere. How long will it be before we are represented in movies, cis men are. So this film is so important, because it represents not only black women, but also trans women,” she said.
The word “representation”, incidentally, was one of the most talked about of the night. The fact of filling the 550 seats of a traditional cinema such as the Odeon with a mostly black audience, that lives, circulates and carries out its actions beyond the downtown-south zone axis, is quite significant. The importance of the film is also in the way it was conducted. Besides showing that it is possible to create quality products in a system distant from the traditional model, also brings a political bias, which is a portrait of young people from the peripheries that have been creating and taking up more and more of all the spaces, both virtual and physical.
Problematizing racism through an art film it was just one of the ways found. But there is much more to be done – and this was the first assurance that “there will be” more film, more black women and more representation.
“Racism creates many abysses, but I think the best way of answering to this is being queens and making a lot of noise at the Odeon,” joked Yasmin.
There will also be three sessions, on the 18th, 19th and 20th of September at 5:40pm. All pay half price.