Actress Grace Passô: “In Brazil, there are thousands of Viola Davises and Whoopi Goldbergs”

The actress and playwright Grace Passô with her award at the 22nd Mostra de Cinema de Tiradentes
homenagem a Grace Passô abrem 22a Mostra de Cinema de Tiradentes 2
Actress Grace Passô recieves honor at the 22nd Mostra de Cinema de Tiradentes ceremony

Note from BW of Brazil: How many times do I have to say it? The time has come. The time has come for Brazil to start recognizing the disservice it does to its own development by not fully opening its doors to its black citizens. I mean, just a few recent honors are enough to demonstrate my point. Marcelo D’Salete won the  prestigious Eisner award for his book Cumbe, about the famed 17th century quilombo (maroon society) known as Palmares, written in comic book format. Then, we have Marcelle Soares Santos winning a $70,000 grant from a foundation that produced 47 Nobel Prize winners. And then, just a few weeks ago, we had a cast consisting of all black women in the incredible musical Elza taking an important theater award in Rio. What’s more is that these people not only understand the importance of these honors in a general form, they also see these accomplishments as a representation of black Brazilians being able to show and prove that their talents can no longer be denied. Having followed the career of actress Grace Passô for a little while, it is also very clear that she understands the importance of her achievements in the struggle for Afro-Brazilian opportunity, representation and recognition. 

O audiovisual brasileiro espelha o silenciamento das pessoas negras, afirma Grace Passô
“Brazilian audio-visual mirrors the silencing of black people,” says Grace Passô

Grace Passô: “In Brazil, there are thousands of Viola Davises and Whoopi Goldbergs”

Minas Gerais actress honored at Mostra de Tiradentes; star of Temporada, she is one of the 2019 bets in Brazilian cinema

homenagem a Grace Passô abrem 22a Mostra de Cinema de Tiradentes
The actress and playwright Grace Passô with her award at the 22nd Mostra de Cinema de Tiradentes

By Joana Oliveira

The first thing that attracted Grace Passô (born in Pirapora, Minas Gerais, 1980) in the theater was the difference. When she first stepped on stage at a performing school at age 13, she felt automatically identified with people of varying ages, with all kinds of bodies and clothes she encountered there. Since then, it has been 22 years of her career, several prizes and pieces translated into six languages – Por Elise (2005), Amores surdos (2006), Mata teu pai (2007), Vaga Carne (2016) and Preto (2018)—, in which she deals with issues such as machismo, racism and blackness.

Trailer of ‘Temporada’.

In cinema, the trajectory of the actress and playwright is more recent. It began in 2016 with a small but important role in Elon Não Tem Medo da Morte by Ricardo Alves Júnior and was voted Best Actress at the Festival de Rio 2018 by the protagonist of Praça Paris by Lucia Murat. This year, she starred in Temporada, by André Novais Oliveira, which premiered on January 17th and is already considered by critics as one of the highlights of 2019 in national cinema. Juliana’s daily routine, a health agent on the outskirts of Belo Horizonte, told in the film, raised Passô to the status of “symbol of national cinema”, crowned with the honor at the 22nd Mostra de Cinema de Tirandentes (Tirandentes Cinema Showcase), which ended on Saturday, January 26th. “I already feel myself inside Brazilian cinema and I intend to continue on this path, doing what I always did, which is to look for projects that match my ethic of life,” she commemorates in an interview with EL PAÍS.

In addition to Temporada, Passô debuts this year the film No Coração do Mundo (In the Heart of the World) (by Gabriel Martins Alves), which will be released in February at the Rotterdam Festival, and the cinematographic version of her monologue Vaga Carne, whose premiere took place at the opening of the event in which he was honored. In this solo piece, a voice is the character and a woman’s body. A black body, an artist, that dialogues directly with the theme of Mostra de Tiradentes: “Corpos Adiante”.

Passô considers that it is still a breakthrough to be an artist, a woman and black in Brazil. “I see the artistic medium as a very concrete mirror of what racism in the country is. The black woman has always been a structuring element of our society, but only now is there an expansion of the spaces that we can occupy,” she says. For her, the theme of the showcase has special resonance in this political moment of the country. “It raises the existence of bodies under threat and the need to create spaces for them to have a future despite this moment of condemnation of bodies, of what is gender, of what race means…”.

At the same time, the actress claims to be afraid of the “superficialization” of identity discourses and the tendency to choose heroes or heroines in certain social groups. She denies, for example, the role of representing the voice of black women in the arts. “I know I have a hellava production and I have no doubt that what I do reverberates in a lot of people, but I also know that many other black women produce incredible things and only need space. There are many Viola Davises and Whoopi Goldbergs in Brazil. I wanted to be looked at only as one representative of this collective.”

Passô celebrates the film Temporada precisely because the film, which has as scenery one of the many Brazilian peripheries, does not exacerbate the identities of its characters. The film tells of the peripheral territory, so often the target of stereotypes in the history of cinema, through the affective ties that are created in it. It is the everyday, period. “But it also has a very Brazilian position, reflects the faces of those who make it, it has a Minas Gerais accent,” she adds.

The feature also deals with women in the process of transformation, taking control of their own lives. In a similar movement, Passô began to write – her main work, in this sense, is Vaga Carne -, and the actress gave way to the playwright. “I write to exist as an actress, to act and invent my world without having to subject myself to waiting. In addition to writing what you yourself is going to say is a gigantic power. And my blackness in the art interests me more and more,” she concludes.

Source: El País

About Marques Travae 3088 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.

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