“It’s very complex the situation of a white telling the story of a black, without being in his place”: The absence of black representation behind the cameras

CAPA mostradecinemanegrobrasileiro nanu
CAPA mostradecinemanegrobrasileiro nanu


Note from BW of Brazil: The time is long past due. We know that there are a number of talented Afro-Brazilian filmmakers that have directed a number of important works, particularly in the past decade or so. But even being talented and recognized internationally, these filmmakers still run into problems with attaining the necessary funding and distribution to get their projects done and then made available for the Brazilian public. A change is clearly necessary, and not just because of the funding and distribution issues.

As we have seen repeatedly in the film, television and advertising industries, the responsibility of the representation of black Brazilians remains overwhelmingly in the hands of white men. And as these white men have proven time and time again that they have no problem with the continuation of the usage of decades long stereotypes about black Brazilian men and women. That is the reason why we continue to see television series such as highly criticized Globo TV series Sexo e as Negas, or updating of old characters in new skin, as in the case of funk singer Nego do Borel signing on to re-create the Tião Macalé character from the old comedy Os Trapalhões. The fact is, as long as creative control in the audio-video realm is controlled by those outside of our community, these sorts of images will continue to be the norm and, as such, the images of black people will continue to be associated with such images given the power of mainstream media.

Funk singer Nego do Borel cast to re-create the old Tião Macalé stereotype, series ‘Sexo e as Negas’ was heavily criticized

With the slight opening of opportunities for Afro-Brazilian in the halls of higher learning, numerous voices have risen to challenge this lack of control that black people have over their own images. And creatively, platforms such as Afro-Flix, YouTube and even the few feature length film productions created by black content makers show that the people not only reject white dominance over our image, they are showing that they have skills and credentials to challenge the mainstream narrative of what it is to be black in Brazil. Let the conversation on this topic continue. And better yet, may these rising voices continue to do something about it.

scene from film filhas do vento
Scene from film ‘Filhas do Vento’

 “The white artist is not capable of representing the black”

By Mayara Oliveira

The absence of black representativeness behind the cameras

Racial inequality encompasses several sectors of the labor market and it is in the cinema that we see this disparity more clearly, especially in Brazil. Where are the blacks in the audiovisual scene? How many of them participate from the beginning of the process to the performance in the films? What is the black representativeness behind the cameras like today?

For decades, blacks were represented in the media and in art – cinema, television, radio and theater – in a stereotyped way. We remind you of blackface, a theatrical practice in which white actors painted their faces with cork charcoal to represent African-American characters in an exaggerated, exotic and often jocular way, only reinforcing racism. The practice may have been extinguished from the stages, but blacks continued to be discriminated against in the new media, both in their image and in their social position.

Sociologist and historian Carlos Machado holds a master’s degree in Social History from USP (University of São Paulo), a scholar of the black movement and African culture and author of the book Gênios da Humanidade: Ciência, Tecnologia e Inovação Africana e Afrodescendente (Geniuses of Humanity: Science, Technology and African and African descendant Innovation). According to him, the white artist is not able to represent the black, as he explains: “It is very complex the situation of a white telling the story of a black, without being in his place. It’s basically talking about a culture that is not yours.”

In 1930, with the rise of social movements and consequent visibility to the marginalized people, the insertion of the black as a representative of the Brazilian people in the media began. However, the fundamental problem remained: white men wrote about the culture and history of black men without experiencing it. Only from the 1960s, with the so-called cinema novo (new cinema) did, the Brazilian cinematographic market begin to have black filmmakers such as Zózimo Bulbul, Cajado Filho and Agenor Alves.

black brazilian directors - capa
Pioneers in black Brazilian filmmaking: Cajado Filho, Agenor Alves and Zózimo Bulbul

The study entitled “A cara do cinema nacional” (The face of national cinema), published by the Instituto Gemma (Grupo de Estudos Multidisciplinar da Ação Afirmativa), on audiovisual production in Brazil, shows that 74% of screenwriters are men and, of this total, only 4% are black. In contrast, only 26% are female, and of that percentage, there are no black women. In directing, the scenario is even worse: 84% of the directors are male and white, while 13% are white women. Only 2% of the directors are black men, and again, there is no percentage of black women in the category.

Filmmakers such as Joel Zito Araújo, André Novais and Jeferson De (3rd, 4th, 5th from left) and others represent a new school of black Brazilian filmmakers

Even with more than half the population composed of people who declare themselves black and a growing black protagonism within the Brazilian audiovisual, we can still perceive the alarming gender inequality within this market. Few women direct films in Brazil, reinforcing the idea that cinema was, from its inception, produced by men and for men.

Jéssica Queiroz (de branco), Barbara Maria (de preto) e Ana Julia (de vermelho) fazem parte de uma nova geração de cineastas mulheres e negras
Jéssica Queiroz, Barbara Maria and Ana Julia are just three of a rising collective of black Brazilian women filmmakers

Lygia Pereira, 25, is a graduate of Midialogy from Unicamp (State University of Campinas) and currently holds a master’s degree from ECA/ USP (School of Communication and Arts, University of São Paulo). She says that problems of representativeness begin in the traditional curriculum of the audiovisual course: “The references end up being always men and whites. So, for you to study something different, you have to run after it. I realize that the references are still loaded with this tradition that has not been contested for a long time.”

In the opinion of the master’s student, betting on real stories, written by people who feel the situations portrayed from up close, is the ideal way to hit the visibility and representation of the black population.

In addition to the problem of gender inequality, we still perceive the issue of the deficit of public policies and financing of projects that promote audiovisual productions by blacks. Apan (Associação dos Profissionais do Audiovisual Negro/Association of Black Audiovisual Professionals), founded in 2016, is one of the only Brazilian institutions to promote black audiovisual production. Besides the valorization and dissemination of their achievements, they also promote black professionals within the Brazilian audiovisual market. Apan’s main idea is to combat stereotypes of the image of black men and women in audiovisual productions, because of this they seek to build political pillars of appreciation of blackness and the defense of these interests in an inclusive way.

Writer and director Carol Rodrigues, winner of the Short-Affirmative edict, made to make the short film “A Boneca e o Silêncio” possible, is the creator of the website Mulheres Negras no Audiovisual Brasileiro (Black Women in the Brazilian Audiovisual), a page that, according to its founder, aims to give more visibility to women within the audiovisual scenario, thus fighting gender inequality in the niche.

Afroflix platform is presenting new possibilities of exposure for black filmmakers

Another initiative that moves towards representativeness within the audiovisual market is AFROFLIX. The platform provides audiovisual content online and guarantees that all its productions have at least one black person as responsible for the area of artistic or technical performance, allowing the user to find films, series, web series, clips, vlogs and various programs produced, written, directed and/or with black people as protagonists. Besides the experience as a spectator, the platform allows producers and directors to make their content available or to indicate other productions that may be part of the catalog.

Despite the problems of inequality and lack of public incentive, it is through private initiatives like these that the audiovisual scene is beginning to diversify, following the pace of society’s evolution towards equity at all levels.

The report was originally published in AFROCULT Magazine. Created as a course work by journalists Giovanna Monteiro, Marina Sá, Mayara Oliveira and Thais Morelli at Anhembi Morumbi University, the magazine aims to be a didactic tool to help combat racism in the country.

Source: Alma Preta

About Marques Travae 3306 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.

1 Comment

  1. “It’s very complex the situation of a white telling the story of a black, without being in his place”: The absence of black representation behind the cameras.

    Criteria That Indicate When
    African-Centered Consciousness
    is Endangered or Depleted by The Mass Media 
    movie, recording, and print industries, and so on must be impacted on behalf of African descent
    people (ADP). Indispensable in accomplishing this monumental and essential task is the
    formulation of criteria that indicate when African-centered consciousness in ADP is endangered
    or depleted by the mass media. The more plain and straightforward the criteria, the better.
    Considering the multifariousness and pervasiveness of the mass media and the virtually
    limitless number of instances therein that could deplete African-centered consciousness, the
    author feels it is necessary to present the criteria in its most fundamental form or bare essence
    using African-centered psycho-cultural constructs and perspectives. By so doing the criteria are
    made applicable to every specific instance of African-centered consciousness endangerment or
    depletion that may possibly occur in any mass media organ.
    The upshot of this will be a sound, systematic conceptual framework for African-centered
    interpretations of mass media presentations of imagery relative to the endangerment and
    depletion of African-centered consciousness. Thus the real possibilities of confusion and being
    overwhelmed inherent in the sheer vastness and pervasiveness of the mass media and its
    intricate, multifaceted, often insidious racial presentations will be overcome. There are two
    preliminary details in formulating criteria that indicate when African-centered consciousness is
    endangered or depleted. The first is to be clear on what African-centered consciousness entails.
    The second is to delineate the psychological state of ADP when their African-centered
    consciousness, in any of its constituent three parts, is depleted.
    African-centered Consciousness
    Following Ukombozi’s (1981) breakdown, African-centered consciousness is constituted
    of the racial awareness, racial identity and racial preference of the African descent person. These
    three constituents of African-centered consciousness are defined as follows by Ukombozi:
    1. Racial Awareness, the knowledge of the visible differences between racial categories by
    which one classifies people into these divisions and, once such knowledge is cognitively
    achieved, the acceptance of it,
    2. Racial Identity, a consciousness of self as belonging to a specific group differentiated from
    other groups by obvious physical characteristics, and
    3. Racial Preference, the attitude or evaluation attached to a racial category and members and
    artifacts thereof.
    Whenever any constituent of African-centered consciousness is not affirmed or reflected in the
    orientation of a person of African descent, s/he will be less likely to engage in own-race
    maintenance behavior which is an imperative according to African-centered personality theory
    (Azibo, 1991, 1996).
    The Journal of Pan African Studies, vol.3, no.8, June 2010Psychological Misorientation and Mentacide
    The African-centered mental disorder called psychological misorientation is produced
    whenever African-centered consciousness is depleted. The psychological misorientation
    construct (Atwell & Azibo, 1991; Azibo, 1989, 2006; Kambon, 1996) refers to a psychological
    orientation wherein an African descent person negotiates the environment, i.e., subjectively or
    phenomenally interprets reality, with a cognitive structure composed of non-African or non-
    Black concepts. That is, the individual’s implicit psychology, subjective culture (Triandis, 1972)
    or inference-making mechanisms (Wyer & Carlston, 1979) are void of elements that reflect or
    emanate from African history and culture. Consequently, the ideation of the psychologically
    misoriented African descent person is constructed with concepts and thought processes that come
    from a nonAfrican group(s). Stated differently, ADP’s utamawazo, a term which means
    culturally structured thought (Ani, 1994), is put together or organized cognitively,
    intrapsychically determined in other words, with Eurasian cultural concepts! Small wonder,
    then, that ADP worldwide appear in extremis as they behave as if they were Eurasians and not
    ADP. Orienteering by a person of African descent, logically, cannot proceed in an African-
    centered manner when his or her consciousness orients towards Eurasian imperatives and can
    expand no farther than Eurasian dictates because it is comprised of Eurasian elements.
    Psychological misorientation can be summarized as being genetically Black minus
    psychological Blackness (Atwell and Azibo, 1991; Azibo, 1989) although psychological
    Africanity is used in today’s parlance. Of course there are degrees of psychological
    misorientation, some ADP being more misoriented than others (Azibo, 2006). Also, if the
    concepts or thought processes employed by the psychologically misoriented person are Eurasian,
    then they are likely to be anti-African as well (Azibo, 2001; Kambon, 1996). The upshot, then,
    is that the beliefs, attitudes, opinions, values–the very ideation–of the psychologically
    misoriented person, which directs his or her overt behavior, issues forth from a cultural
    perspective that in its genesis is not only not indigenous to him or her, but frequently anti-ADP,
    For a person with a depleted African-centered consciousness there is the possibility of a
    compounding psychological condition, mentacide. “When misorientation is resultant of
    systematic and deliberate attempts to destroy the African’s mind, in preparation for his or her
    genocide, the compounding condition of mentacide is operating” (Azibo, 1983, p.6). Mentacide
    is the psycho-cultural technique that is used in retarding and inferiorizing ADP. Mentacide’s
    group termination or extirpation aspect is made plain by Olomenji (1996). As explicated by the
    redoubtable Dr. Bobby Wright and developed in the African-centered nosology of mental
    disorders called the Azibo Nosology (Azibo, 1989, pp. 185-187), mentacide is simultaneously a
    process and an effect.


    concerned, there are still no concrete proposals. The challenge therefore is to address the
    question of values in education, particularly African values in South Africa. African
    people form the majority of the population in South Africa and are also indigenous.
    Therefore the education system must be reflective of their culture and values. Education
    systems throughout the world, according to Malegapuru Makgoba, have three important
    traditional roles in society: the preservation, the imparting and the generation of
    knowledge. Education systems must preserve the cultural heritage of their societies.
    Makgoba explains:
    The university of Africa should recognize this responsibility. It is their prime
    responsibility to enhance Africa, its people, its rich and diverse values, traditions
    and heritage. This remains the greatest challenge for educationists in Africa today.
    (Makgoba 1997: 179)
    Therefore even the so-called English liberal institutions and the Afrikaner
    conservative institutions will have to shed their clothes and put on African clothes.
    Because they are located on the African continent, they will have to be reflective of
    African values. By so doing, they not only contribute to Africa’s development but also
    culturally to the Africans. They will be true national assets serving foreign values.

    It is important to recognize immediately that the imparting of inappropriate or
    irrelevant education, even of the highest caliber, would equally lead to a poor and
    ineffective product. Thus university education has to be relevant not only to the
    people but also to the culture and environment in which it is being imparted. It is
    essential to recognize that true development occurs only when scientific thought
    and technology practice become part and parcel of a people’s culture … All great
    and successful nations of the world have their education moulded into their
    respective cultures, so that the educated English or American person remains
    distinctly American or English, but not African. (Makgoba 1997: 179).

    TAKEN FROM:Embedded Knowledge versus Indigeneity

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