Note from BW of Brazil: Documentaries such as this one are the very reason that spawned the idea of launching the Black Women of Brazil blog. Black Brazilian women in focus, telling their stories, the challenges of a being women and black in Brazil, the box that society continuously tries to put them in and the resiliency and resistance of forging new paths in the construction of this identity. Believe it or not, I first translated this interview with the director below back in September of 2016 when the film first debuted, but it ended up in the archive where it remained for weeks and then months as I kept contemplating the right time to post it. Then, a few days ago, I came across the news that the Cineclube Tela Preta film collective was starting to show the film in select locations along with other films that have been featured on this blog and I thought the time would be perfect to post the piece. I haven’t had a chance to check it out yet but judging from the interview below with the director, it will definitely be placed on my “to watch” list!
Brazilian documentary brings together stories of black women; check out an interview with the director Day Rodrigues
By Artur Francischi
Being a black woman in Brazil is feeling up close the weight of machismo, racism and social invisibility. To help break this harsh reality and bring new perspectives to these women, the documentary Mulheres Negras: Projetos de Mundo (Black Women: World Projects) directed by Dayane Rodrigues, known as Day, and Lucas Ogasawara will be released on September 12.
Through testimonies of several women, the film recounts the history of Brazil up to reaching current times. And in these times, silence is no longer the place occupied by them, as Day herself affirms in an interview with Prosa Livre. “Black women have history and a voice.”
The project comes amid initiatives that have given greater visibility and prominence to these women. In the entertainment field, Beyoncé and her Lemonade celebrate the identity of negras americanas (black American women), inspiring similar work, like that done by a group of trans women, for example. Here in Brazil, Taís Araújo took to the TV show Mister Brau discussions about feminism and racism, in addition to using her platform to discuss these same issues, whether in her social networks, or in interviews that she grants.
But in addition, black women have united on the internet and beyond, creating spaces of empowerment and struggle. And the documentary Mulheres Negras: Projetos de Mundo comes to add to all of this.
Check out our interview with Dayane Rodrigues, director of the work:
Prosa Livre: How did the documentary come about? What was the inspiration for it to take this form?
Day Rodrigues: The documentary was the result of an artistic work, for a cultural management course. I needed to develop some research around the themes surrounding cultural production and its consequences. Then I realized the necessity of us putting on the agenda other narratives beyond the seat of power, spoken by the white, straight, cis, rich and middle class man. I wanted to think of my place of speaking, of a black woman. So I added my activism for the anti-racist struggle and a conversation with Djamila [Ribeiro, philosopher and Adjunct Secretary of the Secretariat for Human Rights and Citizenship of São Paulo], who oriented me: ‘you need to study black feminists because they have projetos de mundo (world projects), which encompass all other layers of society.’ I got this idea in my head: how would it be to think about the world from our perspective? This was how the idea of the film emerged, I told my friend and audiovisual director Lucas Ogasawara, who I came across at the time; and so we made this partnership.
PL: How was the process of choice of women who participated in the film?
DR: Being an independent film, I needed to think of how it would be to do this production without a budget. So, soon I thought of women who were close to me and with whom I have had an exchange around these issues. With most of them, I took into consideration our friendship/partnership, be it in work or activism. But the most important fact was thinking how these women position themselves against the hegemonic discourses. At first, I thought about those that are within the Universities and deal with black feminism in their research; then, conversing with some people, I realized the importance of being alert and attentive to manifestations against racism in poetry of rap, in graffiti and in daily reports. For, as I’m accustomed to saying: the black person knows racism by far; sometimes he/she only has difficulty contextualizing it in social structures.
PL: Did any testimony strike you more? Why?
DR: This question is difficult. All the interviews were striking and important for the process of decoupage [process of choosing images], when I could describe every feeling and interrogation of them. Instead of choosing who most struck me, I prefer to say the interview of my mother, who is in the movie too. That was the only interview not done by me. It was really a choice. And to enhance the documentary, she was the one who taught us about prejudice, with reports full of emotion and consciousness, although not being in social movements or in academia.
PL: What were the difficulties faced in the implementation of the documentary?
DR: The reports and testimonies were very powerful and accurate. Eight respondents, with about an hour interview each. Thus, as the film has 25 minutes, having to cut some parts hurt my heart; on the other hand, the movie is surgical, it requests attention and preciousness. And that leaves the work more interesting.
PL: Have you also gone through similar experiences of the women presented? If so, could you talk about them?
DR: Yes. I was the mulher negra (black woman) good for friendship and sex, for a long time, to the eyes of some men with whom I had relationships. And I understand how I was often discarded only for sex (see note), it made me understand how the sum of racism and machismo dis-configures our self-love. Hence, the film was a healing process for me. After all, my graduation in philosophy, work as a producer and what already I’ve already accomplished by writing, I remember explicit violence, about the legitimacy of my intellectual capacity. The film brings this response.
PL: In July, TEDx did an event in which most of the speakers were black women who talked about their experiences, their pains and loves. The documentary comes shortly after it, also putting black women in the leading role. In your opinion, why is it important to give space for them to talk?
DR: Because in the history of Brazil, stereotypes and hyper-sexualization of the black woman, of the so-called mulata, or by the place of subservience when it submits the black woman to roles of maid and babá (nanny) in dramaturgy, sexism and racism don’t admit our presence in positions of power and construction of thought. So, if thinking is power and oratorical and books are fundamental to enable the disclosure of a speech, it’s fundamental to have black women in spaces of speaking, yes.
PL: Do you believe that there is a shift happening in the way society views black women? Why?
DR: I still can’t even imagine if there was a change. However, I see many groups and collectives of black women gaining strength, just remember the “Marcha das Mulheres Negras”, (March of the Black Women), in em Brasília, last November. Just as the March, also of black women, in São Paulo, in July. In these two moments, shouting the name of Claudia Ferreira da Silva and Luana Barbosa dos Reis brings our struggles, to being alive. For these two women were brutally murdered by the deep marks of contemporaneity: genocide of the black population.
PL: Who do you hope to reach with your film and what do you hope to accomplish with it?
DR: I would like to reach, mainly other black women. To empower other women, so that in this way they multiply for a radical change, that we no longer accept such humiliation. For this, it’s enough to get to know about hashtag # EuEmpregadaDoméstica (I, maid), of rapper and History professor Preta-Rara (meaning ‘rare black woman’) (interviewed for the film), it had over a hundred thousand curtidas (likes) on her fan page in less than a week. All because this was a way she found to make a campaign of complaints from the lack of labor rights, sexual harassment and dehumanizing treatment by the violence of the slave culture reflected in the behavior of the bosses. The casa grande e a senzala (the big house and the slave quarters) gain other dynamics in modern twenty-first century Brazil. And the film comes to say that our steps come from far away and we have a voice.
PL: How can the audiovisual help to combat racism and other forms of prejudice?
DR: The scripts and arguments need to tell the stories without the perspective of racial democracy. Reviewing such a demand is urgent. Or will we continue to believe this fallacy and the daily deaths of the população negra (black population) continue as only our problem. We need others and other characters, and not by the diversity starting from the white man, but by the intrinsic diversity in any ethnic or racial group.
PL: In a trailer scene, Monique Evelle talks about the moment that her consciousness as a woman and black was created. What does this process of identification mean?
DR: Unfortunately, it means understanding that Brazil is a racist country and tries to camouflage, by miscegenation, who we are. At the same time, when we realize that we are at the base of the social pyramid, with the worst jobs, abandoned by our husbands, disqualified in academia and all the arising prejudice, there remains no doubt, we carry a lot of pain. Still, when we recognize ourselves as women and black, being able to support yourself with others has guaranteed the reflection on our world projects.
PL: What can the public expect from the documentary?
DR: Black women have a history and a voice.
Direction: Day Rodrigues and Lucas Ogasawara
Argument, interviews, script and production: Day Rodrigues
Script, photography and editing: Lucas Ogasawara
Testimonials: Aldenir Dida Dias, Ana Paula Correia, Andréia Alves, Djamila Ribeiro, Francinete Loiola, Luana Hansen, Monique Evelle, Nenesurreal, Preta-Rara. Músicas: Sandro Bueno e Mauro Marianno.
Music: Sandro Bueno and Mauro Marianno
Layout: Tatiana Cardoso
Color grading: Maísa Joanni
Mixing: Laurent Mis
Makeup: Gabriela Souza
Communication: Leandro Noronha da Fonseca and Juliana Gonçalves
Press Office: Pret@ Digital
Source: Prosa Livre
- Numerous writers of the material on this blog have made reference to the way that Brazilian men often see black women (including the so-called “mulata”) for only sexual gratification while reserving more serious relationships for white women, thus upholding the old racist/sexist adage of how women are categorized: “White women for marriage, mulata for fornication, black women for work“.