Black Women of Brazil

The site dedicated to Brazilian women of African descent

“You are black, do you think they’ll give you an (acting) opportunity that is not a slave or a maid?” – Black actors speak of difficulty working in Brazilian market


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Note from BW of Brazil: The discussion over the actor/character representation of the Globo TV prime time novela Segundo Sol has been a hot topic ever since the first photos of the cast began to pop up online in promotion of the latest drama. And for good reason. Globo TV’s international channel is broadcast to 130 countries around the world daily. So, imagine that you were a person living in one of those 130 countries and you suddenly felt the desire to travel to Brazil because of something enchanting you saw on one of the network’s ever popular novelas (soap operas). Imagine you watched the novela at the center of this controversy and decided you wanted to visit Salvador, Bahia, where the novela is set. If you were to judge Salvador based on what you saw in the novela, you would most likely come to the conclusion that most people in the city were white, with a couple of black people here and there. How surprised would you be when you arrived in Salvador and saw masses of black folks walking around in the street, in nearly every part of the city?

Now, I know most people reading this would probably deny that such a scenario it would make any difference, but let’s get real. On the inside, a lot of people would probably be thinking “Oh My God! That’s not what I saw on TV!” while verbally saying, “Oh, that’s not important.”

But Globo TV’s continuous disregard of Afro-Brazilians, Afro-Brazilian thought and representation has made this a major issue for everyday people as well as those who make a living through the arts. And once again, the term “boicote” (boycott) has emerged as a possible reaction to yet another slight to Brazil’s black population. Of course, I see this as long shot, but in reality, it doesn’t even take a boycott these days to shake things up, as we’ve seen recently with the announcement of a lawsuit against Globo.

Whatever the outcome of this situation, it has struck a chord with Afro-Brazilian performers who continue to find trying to attain success in Brazil’s Eurocentric entertainment industry a daunting task. Check out the thoughts, realizations and experiences of just a few in the piece below courtesy of Mundo Negro.

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Globo’s new novela ‘Segundo Sol’ is at the center of controversy due to be set in a majority black state but featuring a predominantly white cast

Boycott, racism, privilege: Black actors talk about the “artistic” criteria of white Bahia in the new Globo TV soap opera

By Silvia Nascimento

Novelas de época (soap operas of the era) (see note one, such as Deus Salve o Rei (God Save The King), 7pm drama of the Globo TV network lacks black actors. The rationale is that as it is a Medieval novela (soap opera), before the period of slavery, there would be no reason for the presence of pessoas negras (black people) circulating in the villages, even being a fictional city.

In London, Achilles de Troia (Troy: Fall of a City), Netflix’s series is black. Did it generate criticism from the public? Yes, but the screenwriters supported the character and the line-up didn’t expect it because when we speak of fiction, anything is possible.

In Brazil, the next 9pm novela, Segundo Sol (Second Sun), is already generating discussion about racial issues even before its release. Reason: a cast with protagonists who do not represent the phenotype of 80% of the local population and of course, Globo has a response to justify the unjustifiable.

“The criteria of the line-up of a novela are technical and artistic. Globo doesn’t follow escalations of their works by skin color, but by adaptation to the profile of the character, talent and availability of the cast. And believes that this is the correct way to do this. A story such as  Segundo Sol, also for the fact of having been set in Bahia, brings us many opportunities and, without doubt, reflections on diversity in society, which will be addressed throughout the novela, which is structured in two phases. The manifestations of criticism that we have seen so far are based mainly on the dissemination of the first phase of the novela, which focuses on the drama that will trigger the other. We are attentive, listening and following these comments, safe in the knowledge that we still have a lot of the story to come!”.

If the criteria are for issues such as talents of the actors and there are no black protagonists, in the first phase, which is the most important to captivate the audience and present the story, the impression is that only whites have competence for a prominent role. To say that the demonstrations bring reflections on the diversity, is to admit the intellectual limitation of screenwriters who need criticism to realize that the drama is not reliable in terms of ethnic representation and still requests that we have patience to wait until the second phase of the series.

For black director, scriptwriters are the problem

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“They place this as a profile. I wonder who makes the profile? Who does this is whoever writes the script, who places the characteristics of the characters. So, I think that the main problem is there,” argues Anderson Jesus, actor, director and screenwriter, owner of the Iracema Rosa Filmes producer that is a partner of the cable TV channel A&E. “We blacks are not in the foreground at the head of those writing the characters. Another problem is the issue of profile, which is often related to the visual. For example, if we are talking about a physician, owner of a clinic, the black actor is not considered.” For Anderson, the author is the problem, and the blacks are always intended for stereotypical roles. “If it’s a black doctor, there has to be something behind (him/her), as a deficiency or abuse in childhood or was rescued by a white family. There’s always some trauma,” explains the director. According to him, the role of blacks is the conventional character connected to crime.

For him, the scenario changes only with black actors and directors. “I think that the problem is not at the top of Globo, it’s more below, in the hands of people who make decisions, and we blacks are not there, or anyone really concerned with the inclusion. And I think that the TV, audio visual is one of the main causes of racism in Brazil, because it is still a strong opinion former and moves the masses that think the presence of blacks in airports and elite places is strange, precisely because it does not appear in the media.”

The Bahian actor thinks that novela disregards the history of Bahia

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“I think this novela is nonsense, a disregard with our ancestral history. The Globo Network is a public concession, we pay for it,” explains the Bahian actor of Bando de Teatro Olodum, Sergio Laurentino. For him, Brazilian dramaturgy is “embranquecida (whitened) thanks to (author) Jorge Amado and others.”

“I’m in a city called Salvador that is 89% black and it is impossible that in the 21st century we have any kind of history that this ancestry, my skin, my color, what I am, not being counted in this novela. You need to do stories that tell our story,” argues the actor, who also is studying journalism. “It is impossible to tell the story of this city, without blacks, only from the point of view of the whites. I will do everything to boycott this novela, along with the Nova Frente Negra Brasileira (New Black Brazilian Front), along with the Frente Favela, we will do everything to boycott this novela. Stop this parsimony,” protests Laurentino.

I’ve completed two degrees, I speak 4 languages and cannot work here in Brazil

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Taiguara is one of the most popular black faces in the world of art and fashion. Even with a vast international experience, two degrees, fluency in four languages, improvement of his artistic techniques in singing and dancing, he is frustrating to say how beauty has limited his options for work, having in view that corpos negros (black bodies) don’t serve to interpret characters within the standard of the common citizen.

“When I returned to Brazil, I thought it would be find success in my country. I did Presença de Anita and was a great role that any white who had done the character the way I did, I would be employed until today. It so happens that I became a sex symbol, I managed to get characters that have to do with body or beauty. I suffer a backwards prejudice because of being a negro bonito (beautiful black). If I were a black with a ‘more ordinary’ aspect I would get more work. I was too beautiful to be a slave or criminal,” says the actor in São Paulo.

Taiguara did a recent season in Ireland and England with the play the As Duas Mortes de Roger Casement, where he did a rare thing, which was to interpret a character without any physical appeal, he was hired for his competence to act. “I did this season there and always worked over there, there wasn’t this thing of body. In this piece I even sang. Today I am unemployed, but always prepared for an opportunity,” he concludes.

“You are black and poor, do you really think that they will give you an opportunity that is not a slave and a maid?”

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“I always knew that there would be easy to be a protagonist in a day. I remember as if it were today, after three years of theater school. I graduated, called my parents all happy and said that now I was an actress. Mother said ‘congratulations my daughter you deserve and that your paths open to your happiness and realization’. At the time my father said the harshest words I’d heard in my life: ‘My daughter, forget this story. Come back here, this business of artist, artist! You are black and poor, do you really think that they will give you an opportunity that is not a slave and a maid?’”. This is a report from actress Érica Ribeiro, well known by kids for her role on the program Zoo da Zu, of the Discovery Kids Channel, in addition to acting in plays and still commanding the channel Vai Trazendo, her channel on Youtube.

“I creid a lot, but deep down I knew that didn’t not believe int me, but those who write our stories. Our stories that sometimes denies us lead roles. To say that Giovana Antonelli can be Angelicat, play Capitu (a model/prostitute in the novela Laços de Família) Jade (in the novela O Clone – Muslim even knowing the great concentration of Muslims have dark skin) Anita Garibaldi (popular heroine) Alice (protagonist in the novela Sol Nascente with a background in Eastern culture) and Luzia in Segundo Sol as the face of Brazil. All that’s missing is Daniela coming out singing ‘A cor dessa cidade sou eu’ (I am the color of this city),” provokes Érica.

“Enough of the title of the preto único (only black), enough with being quotas in the productions. Lázaro and Taís are amazing and they are doing a windstorm in recent times in question of representativeness. But, it’s still little, very little close to the unknown talent scattered on the four corners of the country. Bahia carries a history of immeasurable artistic brilliance. Whether through music, dance, writing and performances. The carioca (native of Rio) can sizzle in a novela with a plot in São Paulo. The baiano (bahian) will sing to see what happens. These privileges need to be reviewed,” ends the YouTuber.

Boycott or not?

Social networks have generated many demonstrations against the escalation of actors of the novela Segundo Sol, not only of artists, but also the public. To speak of our pains on Fátima’s program they found us, why is it that for telling our stories as protagonists we aren’t invited?

As long as it doesn’t hurt its audience, Globo will continue thinking that its right.

Source: Mundo Negro

Note

  1. A soap opera that is set in a certain era in the distant past. Deus Salve o Rei, for example, is based in the Medieval period while several other Brazilian novelas are based in the colonial or slavery era.

One comment on ““You are black, do you think they’ll give you an (acting) opportunity that is not a slave or a maid?” – Black actors speak of difficulty working in Brazilian market

  1. charles merriweather
    May 22, 2018

    Time after time, I don’t understand why we cannot start our own production companies for our own shows to be displayed in positive image. I know the cost of owning such business sector would be much but it will be better than working for the other side and having to put up with not having any representation. We can get it together (economy).

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