Note from BW of Brazil: Black women. Race. Representation. These three topics sum up the major reasons for the existence of this blog. Ever since the Portuguese invaded lands owned by Indians, colonized it and imported African peoples for manpower, this country that would come to be known as Brazil would never be a solely white land. But in its media and realms of power, one would certainly be led to this conclusion. Even one of the nation’s most important social critics, Gilberto Fryere, had to acknowledge that the nation’s heart and soul is deeply African and indigenous, but at least since the late 19th century, elites decided that in order to be considered the “country of the future” and a serious country on the world stage, the nation must present itself as ‘the best’ it could be and for those who would direct that future, this image must be white. And with the later influence of the media, elites would purposely make its black population almost invisible when depicting Brazilian life on the big screen and small screen.
Dark skin and curly/kinky hair was to be seen as a thing of the past. And with a widespread belief in the inferiority of the African phenotype, millions of African descendants in Brazil came to deny or feel shame because of these physical markers that denoted this debt to the Motherland. Many sought to whiten their offspring through inter-mixture with more European-looking partners while many Afro-Brazilian women used straightening processes in an attempt to hide or straighten the kinks and curls that would not allow them to deny their African ancestry. Beautiful hair was believed to be straight, preferably blond. Women were/are reminded of this everyday when they turn on the television. Rarely was/is there any image of reference to which non-white women could look and see themselves as being beautiful or the center of attention. It is against this backdrop that Afro-Brazilian women filmmakers are taking the lead and representation into their own hands. Last year the Cannes Film Festival recognized the talents of a pair of Afro-Brazilian female filmmakers and now, in August, we are proud to announce another production made for and about black women that we hope the international film market will take note of since Brazil seems to have a fear of black movies.
See the teaser of the short film K-Bela above with great photos and the back story below.
K-BELA: A FILM MADE BY BLACK WOMEN
By Silvana Bahia
A buzz is taking account on the independent audiovisual scene in Rio de Janeiro: the realization of K-BELA film. With the script written and directed by Yasmin Thayná – a doer who acts in different fields such as film, literature, journalism, among others – KBELA is a film produced by black women. Adapted from the autobiographical tale Mc K-bela, written by the director of the film and published in the book Flupp Pensa – 43 new authors in 2012, K-BELA chronicles the construction and affirmation of the character’s identity as a black woman from the relationship with her cabelo crespo (kinky/curly hair).
Scheduled for release in August 2015, the film, which is in the editing process, is making the rounds inside and outside the network. More than 50 people are involved in this process which is all collaborative, since the actresses who contributed their stories and memories and even to the meals served during the two days of recording, made by the mother of the producer of the film, Erika Candido. K-BELA is based in the networks of affection and the internet. An online vaquinha (donation pool) made last year raised R$5,000 dollars to help in making the film.
The possibility of communicating with women from different spaces demonstrates how capillary this production is. KBELA is a short film of the experimental genre that branches into different artistic languages, such as literature, theater, and one of its inspirations is the movie Alma no Olho (Soul in the Eye) (1974) by (filmmaker) Zozimo Zózimo. Representativeness, empowerment, self-esteem and recognition are disputes that KBELA inserts, where the challenge is, from the creation of new narratives about black women, guaranteeing some visibility that can interfere, and who knows, effectively alter reality.
Over ten black women head the cast, including Maria Clara Araújo, a black trans woman from Pernambuco, who came to Rio exclusively to record the scenes of the film. For Maria Clara, the importance of the film is makes itself into “a struggle for greater representation. The film shows a new perspective, little seen by the general public, a perspective where thel black trans woman can also be an actress, and brings a view different from usual that the great masses have about transvestites and transsexuals,” said the college student who has just entered the course of pedagogy at the Federal University of Pernambuco.
The Portuguese actress Isabel Martins Zua Mutange – who besides acting in the film signs on directing the movement, considered it a privilege to be part of this team. “The film is a very important milestone, done by our generation that will serve as a reference for many other films and will arrive in many places. Any black girl having issues or not with her hair will be recognized in this film. KBELA will contribute to the self-esteem of black women wherever it goes,” said the actress.
When it started
In 2013 the Mc K-bela tale was adapted for the stage by director Anderson Barnabé and starred actress Veruska Delfino in Home Theatre – Festival Internacional de Cenas em Casa. In the same year the film project started, when the young people of Revista Cranta launched on Facebook a call for black women actresses and non-actresses who went through/are going through stories of hair transition. In two days of dissemination, more than 100 emails were received. After the selection of the actresses, the group filmed the first version of KBELA in the old Bhering factory, in Zona Portuária of Rio. A film ready for editing, Yasmin was assaulted with all the material already filmed that was in her computer that was carried in her backpack.
From there, re-shooting KBELA became more than an objective, it became an act of resistance. Several changes have occurred in the meantime and the film was gaining larger dimensions, reaching more and more people who had embraced the proposal. “The project has matured in a very strong way. It was another movie, we had no art direction, costumes, makeup. It was a group making a video that spoke of the issues of black women. Since then, the script and my proposal of direction matured. It was fundamental to have performed several rehearsals before recording for real. And at every meeting KBELA was getting bigger, and getting bigger every day that passed and it still hasn’t even premiered. I hope he has an infinite size and who will do this are the people who identified themselves and use the work to deconstruct the concepts that oppress us,” said Yasmin Thayná.
About black women in film
In Bahia, since 2010 the people of the collective Tela Preta (Black Screen) has been producing films that put black representation in cinema into discussion, and the role of blacks behind the camera. Larissa Fulana de Tal, filmmaker and member of the collective, said that one of the biggest challenges of filmmaking in Brazil is to stay together, carrying out and proposing, and sometimes not only in the theme, but in the reflection the look and language.
“Being a black mastermind consists of the search of deconstruction, ie, a decolonization of look, to seek the ways we want to see. This based on the pursuit of aesthetic language, is a long process, besides the technical ownership, which allows us access to the means of production, is a triple challenge. Strengthening the issue is not just the black subject, but in the necessity to deliver and represent the black in a different way, in which there is a disruption of stereotypes,” she said.
Data from the study ” A cara do cinema nacional: perfil de gênero e cor dos atores, diretores e roteiristas dos filmes brasileiros (2002-2012) (The face of national cinema: profile of gender and color of the actors, directors and writers of Brazilian films (2002-2012) conducted by the Grupo de Estudos Multidisciplinares da Ação Afirmativa (GEMAA or Multidisciplinary Study Group of Affirmative Action)of the State University of Rio de Janeiro ( UERJ) pointed out that in the last ten years, black women accounted for only 4.4% of the cast of main national feature-length films. The study also reveals that, in the same period, women occupied only 14% of management positions and 26% wrote scripts, none of which were black women. Therefore, in the Brazilian context, KBELA is a feminist and anti-racist political project in the arts for the construction and affirmation of spaces of self-representation of black women.
More than 80% of the film crew among technicians and cast is made up of women and over 50% are black. The crew formation of KBELA did not happen randomly, as explained Yasmin Thayná. “When the research from UERJ fell in my lap, I looked at the team and saw that there was a strong feminine force. The film was always produced by black women, but it began to grow, really earn a cinema format, and we know that the market and who has contacts/equipment are white men, mostly. We’re still starting to hack this. I was very scared to do a set in which in front of the cameras were black women and behind them white men. I wanted to be another one questioning that, breaking the protocol,” said the director.
Janaina Oliveira Re.Fém, rapper, filmmaker, director of the film Rap de Saia questioned access to large funding of film. “To make a movie of one of these box office films are millions of reais, there are many good films of black women, but that don’t go to the channels of commerce. There is a huge challenge to accessing large funds and spaces. I believe we are in a process. It is important that we continue making, producing and believing,” commented the advertiser that sees in the field of audiovisual techniques an important possibility of society in dialogue. Re.Fém also coordinates the communication of the 8º Encontro de Cinema Negro (8th Black Film Encounter) to be held in Rio de Janeiro on April 14 and 15. This is an opportunity to see the productions that are not always in the large rooms, but that bring relevant discussions and other looks on our world.
KBELA: A FILM ABOUT HAIR TRANSITION AND IDENTITY GETS ITS FIRST TEASER
by Karoline Gomes
The stories of hair transition or even of resistance and struggle of women for the right to have their natural beauty without industry intervention and society’s opinion are so strong and inspiring that they can be easily transformed into plots for movies. And that’s what Social Communication student Yasmin Thayná, who wrote and directed the film K-bela, did. The first teaser has been released, and debut forecast. Watch the clip!
Yasmin told Ovelha (site) that the film seeks to reflect on the place of black women in contemporary society, the current standards of beauty, expression, self-image and identity. It defines: “We have said that it is an experience of being a woman and tornar-se negra (becoming black). The film is a sequence of metaphors in the daily life of a great part of black women in the world.”
The film’s screenplay is based on the tale of MC K-Bela, which tells the story of a black girl, a resident of Rio’s Baixada Fluminense region, who went through a processo de embranquecimento (process of whitening) during her life and decided to liberate herself from this, letting her natural hair grow again , getting rid of chemical interference.
“That was the way that MC K-bela found to feel beautiful, to able to look at herself without any alienation,” says Yasmin.
The tale of MC K-Bela was published by the publisher Aeroplano, and adapted for the theater, until in 2013 with the support of some friends, Yasmin decided to go to the internet calling women with stories like that of Mc K-Bela to tell. “In three days more than 100 women from all over Brazil responded to the call, telling their stories and expressing interest in participating in the film,” she said.
Representation and the search for equality
In these inscriptions seven black women, actresses and non actresses were chosen and accepted scenic challenges to deliver to the team to put on the short film. It’s this team that Yasmin speaks of proudly.
“I am very concerned about representation. In the film festivals that I go to most directors are white men. I said: who has to do this film are black women. K-bela has on its team about 80% of black women making the film. They are producers, actresses, directors of various nuclei.”
On the issue of representation, the film also has a transsexual actress* in the cast. On the movie’s official Facebook page, the team talks about the importance of the participation of Maria Clara Araújo:
“We made a point of having on this team Maria Clara Araújo, a Pernambuco native who is only 18 has been highlighted in the struggle for empowerment of trans women in Brazil, with discourse and activism intersected by the race issue. We vibrated when she accepted participating, it’s a pleasure for the whole team to have her among the actresses who faced this production that is half sweat and half heart. You cannot tackle racism without discussing the black trans-feminism.”
Yasmin also highlights the contribution of the material for social discussions. “I know I have great responsibilities with black women. And therefore, I have an obligation to develop a work that adds up the discussion of racial inequalities. Perhaps what K-bela want to do is already coming to pass: more black women in Brazilian cinema.”
A new format
K-bela comes in a different and impressive format, which does not necessarily follow the trajectory of the main character, but adds the stories of women who participate in it to the tale.
“The film is very strong imagetically speaking” defines Yasmin. “It can you cause an alienation, an impact. But what it highlights is the question of hair transition and all the beauty in this re-birth, that for us, black women, the sky is the limit. “
As reported in the first teaser of the film, K-bela a debut forecast for the month of August. You can keep up with it and get other information on the official website of the film or on the Facebook page.
Journalist, who accepts her curls, is in love with photography and fashion, a feminist in lifelong learning.