Black women filmmakers combine idealism with cinematic technique and are earning more space on the big screen

Afro Brazilian women
Lílian Santiago
You may not remember the names of the directors or producers of the last movies you watched, but surely they were there. In Brazil, women are the majority behind the camera, according to the filmmaker Jeferson De, considered one of the most successful black directors today. For him, “it is essential the participation of women as protagonists of audiovisual production. Without them there is nothing, nothing actually happens,” he emphasizes.


Lílian Santiago, filmmaker, and historian with a Master’s degree in Integration of Latin America at the University of São Paulo (USP), believes that filmmaking is how one feels represented. “Even the movies that seemed not have anything to do with black culture actually did, for example, the documentary Uma cidade chamada Tiradentes (A City called Tiradentes), which chronicles the lives of the residents of the neighborhood that has the highest number of black residents of the city São Paulo and that was not the main theme of the film”, she says. Ana Gomes, who began directing films two years ago, after taking an audiovisual course at the Central Única de Favelas (Cufa), a non-governmental organization in Rio de Janeiro, shares the same ideas as Lilian: “I’m a militant of Movimento Negro (black Brazilian civil rights movement). It’s from this reference that I produce, I express myself and live happily.”


Santiago’s Uma cidade chamada Tiradentes
Most often, the black directors and producers make up the so-called “independent cinema”, i.e. not blockbuster films or videos that are in all the cinema halls in large cities. Lilian, for example, began her career as a secretary in the production of Os matadores, of Beto Brant. The film was released in the 90s. This period became known as the resumption of Brazilian cinema, after the passage of the (President) Collor Era when the institutions Embrafilmes, Brazilian Cinema Foundation and Ministry of Culture and its incentive laws went extinct. “In the ’80s, I only made advertising videos,” recalls Lily, stressing that the financial resources for the production of films were scarce during the military dictatorship in Brazil (1964-1985).

Maybe that’s one of the reasons why Jeferson De says that “filmmaking is 97% of willpower and work and 3% luck.” He also affirms that through the films, “we can make the concept of diversity a reality.” It’s through diversity that Ana Gomes also works: “My goal is to fight prejudice in Brazil, which is systemic, structural and symbolic, I am motivated to fight it at all times, from choosing the clothes I wear, the music that I listen to, to the movies I make,” she says.

Ana Gomes
Maria Cristina Amaral, who has worked in the area of cinema for over 20 years, says she can think about this art as a relation of exchange with the public and that doesn’t take the racial issue to the screens. For her, “racism has to be a problem for whoever is racist that has to resolve to stop being one.” But on the other hand, the producer of films like O Rito de Ismael Ivo (The Rite of Ismael Ivo) (see table at the end of the matter), recognizes that race is important and that “it should also be discussed in the literature, in the theater, in all forms of art.” Cristina says that cinema is still her greatest leisure and that all of her professional life was dedicated to it.

For Ana and Lily, directing movies is a form of realization and finding themselves. Ana, for example, states that this is “a space for expression and reflection of the soul and the human condition.” Lílian  who has been familiar with the seventh art since childhood when she watching the recordings of the old (Brazilian TV channel) TV Tupi with one of her older brothers, elevates film making: “being on a film set is extremely contagious, it’s an area of ​​great dedication and love.” 

About Marques Travae 2894 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.

1 Comment

  1. i am not aware of these two women's work and im afraid if they cant get their dvd's distributed, its hard to find out about it…maybe its on youtube…with some exceptions, i find brazilian films and novelas seem to miss something in showing the real brazil…of course the lack of black brazilian life stories in these films is one thing, but its more than that…brazil is dripping with sensuality and a spark of life that is contagous if you get near it and for some reason, i dont get that from brazilian films…the french directed film "black orpheus" did a better job of showing black brazilian life and sensuality better than a lot of brazilian directed filmsthe exceptions for me is a film like "rio babalonia", which certainly showed a kind of sensuality and flow of rio…even a film i like a lot , like "tropa de elite", has a scene with a dread locked traficar and they are playing a rock song as their celibration…i guarentee you, there arnt gun toting white dread locked pushers in the favela, and they play baile funk with gorgeous black brazilian women doing sensual moves , at their parties…can you imagine a brazilian sytle "baywatch", and the kind of visuals and stories that could be made about that?any kind of film about black brazilian culture and the stories about it and the rhythms and dance shown in it , from samba, to maracatu, bloco afro, coco, frevo , tambor da criola, etc, would be extremly welcome, especialy in a historical context since there are incredible stories about these historiesbut , instead, on the recent re make of "gabriella" on globe, they have tango at the bordelo…tango in a bordelo in bahia? cmonits like these movies and novelas are written by a very internalised group of people, like people writing stories of new york city who live in long island and they really are just writing stories about long island and their lives…or like woody allens version of "manhattan" sure isnt my version of what manhattan really is

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