In the external area of the headquarters of the mayor of Salvador, Bahia, two cameras pointed their lenses in the direction of the Baía de Todos-os-Santos (Bay of All the Saints). Standing, flanked by a team of 25 professionals, director Spike Lee looked in the direction of the sea. But his look went beyond the beautiful scenery captured in the background by the cameras.
His interest is in the councilman Sílvio Humberto (PSB party), founder of the Instituto Steve Biko (Steve Biko Institute) and one of the representatives of the Movimento Negro in the City County building in Salvador.
Seated on a bench on the balcony of the Câmara (city government) palace, Sílvio is surprised by the first question: why has Salvador, a city with a predominantly black population, never had a black mayor and why has the state of Bahia never had a black governor or senator? (1)
“He found absurd the fact of the racial diversity of Brazil not reflecting itself also in the structures of power. This shows a structural racism in Brazilian society”, said councilman Humberto, that is fulfilling his first term in the Câmara.
Capturing images and interviews for the documentary Go, Brazil, Go!, Lee came to Bahia to discuss the racial question. The film, that next year will enter the Cannes Film Festival in France, has as a central focus the current scenario of the country’s advances and Brazil’s protagonizing role on the international scene. But it also plans to delve deep into the contradictions of a country that has as a principal feature the diversity of races.
Since Friday, February 8th, in Salvador, the filmmaker has interviewed and will interview artists like Margareth Menezes, Carlinhos Brown and Ivete Sangalo, the president of social/cultural/musical organization Olodum, João Jorge, the governor Jaques Wagner and the mayor ACM Neto that conversed with Lee for about 40 minutes. In the conversation with the mayor, there was more discussion about the racial question in the capital city of Bahia.
“The documentary comes at a good time because it will show a problem that exists, but it will also show that there are measures that are being adopted by the mayor’s office and the government. We show that this is a question being dealt with more and more with seriousness”, said ACM Neto leaving the interview with the director responsible for classic films such as Do the Right Thing (released as Faça a Coisa Certa in Brazil) and Jungle Fever (Febre da Selva).
Carnaval – As a backdrop in the capturing of images of the film in Salvador, is the week of Carnaval in Bahia. For the councilman Sílvio Humberto, a perfect scenario for discussing the segregation of Bahian society, that reflects in its Carnaval circuits a division of classes that mirrors itself in the racial division.
“Carnaval is a reflection of what we have in society. Whites are on top, in their camarotes (grandstands) or protected by the blocos and the blacks remain below, holding the ropes”, he critiques (2).
Mayor ACM, in his turn, guaranteed that starting in the next year, Salvador will have a Carnaval more plural, with spaces for the diverse sectors of society. “We are going to democratize the participation of various movements in the street, in the most important moments, in the most glamorous moments of Carnaval. The party cannot be only for certain groups that have results economically. Carnaval has to be for all baianos (citizens of Bahia)”.
This is not the first time that Spike Lee has come to Bahia. In 1996, he directed the recording of the music video of the song “They Don’t Care About Us” by Michael Jackson. On that occasion were made images of the artist singing together with Olodum, in the historic Pelourinho area. For the recording of Go, Brazil, Go! The team directed by Lee should visit still the neighborhoods of the Pelourinho, Itapuã and Liberdade, all marked by the strong influence of black culture.
1. Upon his arrival in Brazil to begin work on his documentary, Lee made similar observations about the invisibility of Afro-Brazilians on Brazil’s TV networks. See the story here.
2. For more on the situation in Salvador, Bahia and how Carnaval is simply a microcosm of the overall reality, see this article. Also see coverage of recent elections which the choice of two black women for vice-mayor of the city here.
Source: A Tarde