Lee said that the film must be released before the 2014 World Cup
Spike Lee interviews 30 Brazilian personalities for documentary
In his voyage to the country the filmmaker examines Brazilian society.
“My ancestors were freed in 1865 and in Brazil slavery was abolished in 1888. It is a small difference, but if we compare the evolution of African-Americans and Afro-Brazilians, we are 20 years ahead”, Lee said in a press conference yesterday in São Paulo.
The filmmaker dodged attempts to define his new film, but made it clear that racism will be highlighted, although not the only theme of the project, which also relies on the consultation of writer Fernando Morais.
“Between 50% and 60% of the population is black. I was surprised to learn”, said Lee, who visited the country last in 1995, when he directed the video for “They Don’t Care About Us”, of Michael Jackson, in Morro Dona Marta, in Rio, and in the Pelourinho area of Salvador, Bahia, in the country’s northeast.
Echoing previous reports from Black Women of Brazil, Lee spoke of his first impression of Brazil 25 years ago. “The first time I was here in 1987, I was shocked to see that on TV, in magazines, there were no blacks. It’s improved somewhat. But there is a lot to do. Whoever never comes to Brazil and sees the Brazilian TV via satellite will think that all Brazilians are blond with blue eyes”, he said.
Spike Lee interviews filmmaker Joel Zito Araújo (1)
The filmmaker arrived in Brazil last Monday and returned to the US yesterday. He went to Rio, Brasília and São Paulo, interviewing about 30 people. After visiting the musical/cultural group AfroReggae on Friday, Lee attended a luncheon with the actors Lázaro Ramos (2) and Wagner Moura on Saturday afternoon.
“He seemed more interested in investigating, understanding and discovering Brazil and the people than objectively making a movie about something”, Ramos said.
On the same day, Lee visited the Central African Film Carioca (Centro Afro Carioca de Cinema) in Lapa (neighborhood in Rio), where he interviewed its founder, Zózimo Bulbul, and met with black artists.
“The lack of blacks in the media made him restless, so he wanted to know about the place of blacks in society and the position of the Center in black film of Brazil”, Bulbul said.
Spike Lee meets one of Brazil’s most important black actors and filmmakers, Zózimo Bulbul (3)
Politicians such as former football player and current federal deputy Romário, musicians like Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil, as well as artists like Os Gemeos were also interviewed.
Lee with former soccer great and current federal deputy Romário
“A documentary is as good as the people you interview”, said Lee. “Without the right people, there is nothing to be done, no matter how good a filmmaker you are. The selection of interviewees is a large crop of Brazilian society. I have not yet interviewed (former president) Lula and (current president) Rousseff, but I hope to interview them when I return.”
The director received as a good sign the fact of having arrived in Brasilia last Wednesday, when the Supreme Court began the trial on the constitutionality of racial quotas inuniversities. With a camera in hand, he mingled with the people protesting for and against, and the next day to interview the Justice (Minister or Ministro) Joaquim Barbosa.
“I believe in destiny. Few things in life are coincidental”, he said, celebrating the decision in favor of the quota policy. “I say, let’s not stop there. Let’s take it to the media, the labor market. There is worldwide a misinterpretation of the quota system. Some believe that they will be occupied by people with no qualifications. It’s nothing like that. Qualified persons will be selected to go to the university. Without affirmative action the United States would not have advanced so much in the racial question.”
Lee recieved an autographed jersey from soccer superstar Neymar
New visit in July
Lee joked that the film was not commissioned by Congress, therefore, he does not intend to hide the Brazilian blemishes or praising the qualities of the country.
“It will be a balanced film. But I notice that people are very optimistic about the future in Brazil. They want that economic growth to bring social mobility and that the distance between rich and poor, which is still horrible in the US decreases here.
Lee also took the time to go back to Morro Dona Marta, where he posed beside a statue of Michael Jackson. His next trip to Brazil will be in July, and he plans to include anonymous testimonials.
Lee poses with statue of Jackson in same slum where he directed one of the singer’s videos
“When people see the film, they will have as good an understanding as possible”, he said. “I will be working, because I don’t know how to show a country, this country at this particular moment in its history, in only two hours.”
1. Araújo is Brazil’s most prolific black filmmaker having produced 26 films, 1 full-length movie and 25 documentaries. His most important work is A Negação do Brasil. Both a book and documentary, the work analyzes the of presence of Afro-Brazilians in more than 30 years of Brazilian soap operas (novelas). Araújo’s documentary and book, A Negação do Brasil, is an excellent resource to back up Lee’s observation of the underrepresentation of black people in the Brazilians media as it documents 35 years of Afro-Brazilian actors in Brazil’s ever popular soap operas (novelas). Some of Araújo’s work is featured on the Black Women of Brazil website. See here.
2. Having appeared in a number of films, novelas, TV series and theater productions, Lázaro Ramos is arguably the most prominent and popular Afro-Brazilian actor of the present time. He is also married to actress Taís Araújo, who is arguably the most successful Afro-Brazilian actress of all-time.
3. Bulbul became the first black protagonist of a Brazilian soap opera and directed one of the most important documentaries to deal with the plight of black Brazilians in his film Abolição, a poster of which he presents to Spike in the photo.