Revisiting the triumph and controversy surrounding the film Filhas do Vento, the first Brazilian film made with a majority black cast and black director – Part 1

Filhas do Vento DVD cover

For today’s post and those of the next few days, I wanted to discuss Filhas do Vento, a 2004 film directed by Joel Zito Araújo. Now I’m sure there are those that are wondering why I am posting an article about a film that was released eight years ago. There are several reasons. This blog is focused on the experiences, challenges, history, achievements and disappointments of women of the Federative Republic of Brazil who either consider themselves to be black or could be considered black or of visible African ancestry by others.  This 2004 film, its characters, its cast, its mere existence and the reaction it garnered highlights many of the issues at the center of the Afro-Brazilian experience. In the United States today, black actors and films created by black directors and featuring black casts are still vastly under-represented in Hollywood. While there are far more black-oriented American films reaching the big screen today in comparison to the pre-Spike Lee decade of the mid ‘70s to the mid ‘80s, the situation is far worse in Brazil.

In this extended post, I highlight the details of the story, the making, the director, actors and subsequent achievement and fallout from the film Filhas do Vento in an attempt to give insight into how far Brazil has to go in its discussion and handling of race and race-oriented issues.

Filhas do Vento – The Film

A year after being awarded in the Gramado Film Festival, the drama Filhas do Vento (Daughters of the Wind) made it to the commercial circuit in SãoPaulo and Rio de Janeiro. The film, which won eight awards at the festival, among them best picture and director, marks the fiction debut of documentary filmmaker Joel Zito Araújo*.

black Brazilian women
Director Joel Zito Araújo

Starring one of the largest and most competent casts of black actors in recent times in Brazilian cinema, Filhas do Vento avoids the stereotypical roles that these actors are required to play in cinema and TV. In this film, none of them is marginal, or a slave or servant of a white housewife.

In fact, one of the central points of the film shows a black veteran actress named Cida (Ruth de Souza), who, despite achieving success, only landed these kinds of roles in the soap operas in which he worked. Cida’s sister, Ju (Léa Garcia), in turn, chose to stay in their home state of Minas Gerais, caring for their father and then their children and grandchildren, following her sister’s career from afar. When they were young, the two had a serious fight involving their father, Zé das Bicicletas (played by veteran actor Milton Gonçalves), and a boyfriend, which led Cida to leave the city. Screenwriter Di Moretti’s script brings a rare feat in film: it focuses on a story starring women of two generations of one family.

Scene from Filhas do Vento

When they were young, the sisters were portrayed by Taís Araújo and Thalma de Freitas, winners of the awards for best supporting actresses at the festival. The second generation of the family has Selminha (Maria Ceiça), Cida’s daughter, who forged a successful military career but then faced problems with her married boyfriend (Jonas Bloch) who doesn’t want to leave his family.

Ju’s daughter, Dorothy (Danielle Ornellas), wants to follow in the footsteps of her aunt and be a TV star, to her mother’s disappointment. To do this, she moves to Rio and rarely visits the family. These four women will meet again when the father dies, and they must settle the accounts of the past in order not to jeopardize the future of the family.

Reality invades fiction

In telling the story of the black actress who triumphs despite prejudices, Joel Zito Araújo refers to the actual path of the actress Ruth de Souza, who was relegated to supporting roles in the past. The director also used the issue as one of the main subjects of his famous documentary, A Negação do Brasil (The Denial of Brazil) based on his book of the same name.

Investing in the slope of the melodrama, Filhas do Vento may look like a soap opera at first glance but upon closer analysis it highlights the sophistication of the film when dealing with veiled racism that exists in Brazil. Thus, seeking the acceptance of black actors in roles as romantic heroes and heroines who were often denied, both on television and in cinema.

Below, see the trailer of Filhas do Vento (in Portuguese)

* – Araújo’s work often analyzes the complexities of race, racism in representation in the Brazilian media. For a brief introduction to his work please see here and here.

See part two of this three part series here

Source: UOL Reuters

About Marques Travae 2898 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.

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