Note from BW of Brazil: Race and representation. It’s a very important topic for us here at BW of Brazil. Brazil’s media clearly doesn’t care that more than half of it’s population doesn’t fit within the standard physical representation that has been presented on the airwaves for decades now. These representations often have devastating effects on the self-esteem and identity of children who don’t fit into these standards. But as many have and are realizing, complaining does very little. Change requires a vision, a plan, development and a will to do for self what others can’t or aren’t willing to do. Another thing that is very much necessary is funding, that asset that so many groups and organizations are lacking. A few months back, we brought you the story of a group of women who were hoping to stage a theater piece based on the life of Afro-Brazilian writer Carolina de Jesus who turned to crowd-funding in an attempt to fund their endeavor. Today we bring you the story of a group that is going the crowd-funding route to bring more black representation to film. The deadline date actually passed a few weeks ago and we’re not sure if either projects reached their goals, but it’s an important step to see people taking things into their own hands to provoke change.
Does a black princess exist? Fábula de Vó Ita, a short film about racism and representativeness in childhood
by Caio Costa
When Gisele came home from school, her grandmother Ita realized that something was wrong. A drawing made by the girl revealed what was happening: Gisele was a victim of racism. The illustration showed colleagues mocking her cabelo crespo (kinky/curly hair). To help her granddaughter overcome the problem, Ita creates a fantastic story. This is how is Fábula de Vó Ita (Fable of Grandma Ita), a short film that needs to raise R$10,000 (about US$2,900) by August 10th to be finalized was born (collaborate!).
In the history created by Ita, Gisa, a black girl, feels isolated in a kingdom where no one looks like her. Tired of suffering discrimination, she seeks a witch to change her look, but it is precisely because of her hair – that changed itself conforming to her emotions – that she is recognized by her mother, Queen Andrea, who for years sought her lost daughter.
Although fictional, the film’s plot by Joyce Prado and Thallita Oshiro refers to the reality of many black children in Brazil. One of the very creators, Joyce, 28, experienced similar episodes in childhood. “When I was in pre [preschool], the term was ‘macaco’ (monkey),” says Joyce. “Unfortunately we have to teach children 5 years old that they don’t have to care about the vision of their classmates. It shouldn’t be like that,” she adds.
The identification of the actors with the story is also great and came about even before filming. “I was impressed at the casting session, we had 30 children, and mothers loved it because when they go to an audition for advertising or a novela (soap opera) their children are put in as extras, there’s no role as a character, there’s no voice. We have a cast made up of black actors who have active voices,” says Joyce.
In the case of Tekka, an 8-year old child actress who plays protagonist Gisele, the connection is even stronger. “There’s a line by Gisele that is ‘but, grandmother, there are no princesses like this [black]’. I asked Tekka what she thought when she said this and she said: I know I’m a princess, but everyone wants to say that I’m not, and I started to cry,” says Joyce.
Another striking case involved the daughter of Gabee Conceição, who plays Gisele’s mother. “The daughter of Gabee came home one day saying that she didn’t want to be black. At four years old she felt a very great lack of seeing herself represented, not seeing a black princess in the stories. The mother spoke of Tiana, of the Princesa e o Sapo (Princess and the Frog), but the daughter recalled that Tiana was not a princess, she was a woman who had married a prince. The princess that they who sold to her was not a real princess. When she saw her mother dressed in costume for the audition, she came out telling the school that her mother was a black queen,” says Joyce.
The issue of representation is central in A Fábula de Vó Ita. The film won the Carmem Santos Cinema de Mulheres edict, aimed at works of women filmmakers. In addition to the directors Joyce Prado and Thallita Oshiro – who also wrote the screenplay -, art direction, photography, sound and even the illustrations of the film are the responsibility of women.
The amount received in the edict, $30 thousand, however, was not enough to carry out the short in the way it was planned. Every part of the fable is made in animation, mixing aspects of embroidery and painting, which increased costs. To enable production, they turned to crowdfunding and need to raise R$10,000 by the 10th of August.
More questions for Joyce Prado:
Catharsis: How do you see the issue of representation in cinema in recent years and in particular in products intended for the infant-juvenile public?
Joyce Prado: I think there is a movement in the audiovisual both black idealizers as women idealizers. I am in these two. We begin to challenge what our representation is in image and speech, and we seek to bring these questions to the children.
C: How did the idea of using crowdfunding come about?
JP: When we spoke of the project with people they liked it. This positive reaction made us feel that it could be a way, because many people were interested in the proposal.
C: We see on Catarse a frequent use of collective funding to enable questioning projects, some focused on the infant audience such as Uma história quase parecida, A princesa e a Costureira. How do you see crowdfunding in this fight for more representation and creation in general?
JP: Inside the crowdfunding there is greater freedom of narrative. Edicts, both state and federal, are often conservative. In crowdfunding there is a freer dynamic, I think it that this brings a recurrence of narratives with proposals that deal with homosexuality, representation of black women. It is a creation on screen that begins to challenge the male-dominated society and even consumption. When we talk in collaboration with people who like a project, we’re going to another axis. Not Rouanet or Proac, in which you depend on companies being interested in your project. When there is no necessity to convince a company, you have greater creative freedom, even to challenge their position [entrepreneurs] in relation to these themes. We are building another cultural production axis through crowdfunding.