Note: The more I ask the question, the more deafening the silence on the issue. The question? How is it that talented Afro-Brazilian filmmakers can continue to garner the attention of international film festivals outside of Brazil, but these directors and their works continue to go mostly ignored by the Brazilian film industry with very few Brazilians even knowing who they are? This short film and web-series looks to be yet another thought-provoking portrayal of what it is to be black in a country that constantly attempts to make blackness all but invisible. The film Pretas adds to a growing list of films in which Afro-Brazilians are taking to heart the idea that they must be the ones to tell their own narratives, not only because the mainstream refuses to do it, but also because, as we’ve seen for decades, white directors will continue to portray black life in Brazil as very one dimensional and stereotypical. The plot of Pretas alone is enough to make you ponder the details of the film. I mean, a black woman, who is a boxer and is raising her child in the Amazon, a state that one doesn’t necessarily associate with the black population.
It goes without saying that Brazil’s film industry doesn’t see these stories as being important. I mean the color of success in Brazil is white, thus part of the thinking is that no one would want to watch films written, directed and starring black Brazilians. I don’t believe that to be true. There are millions of non-white Brazilians who would pay to see a film about a parcel of the population that is essential to the understanding Brazil itself. The film Pretas is just one of many whose stories that need to be told, heard and seen.
Webserie PRETAS releases its second episode
The web-series PRETAS, meaning black women, is a collaborative production coming out of the state of Pará, which in 9 episodes narrates experiences of black women in different contexts. Stories that bring up discussions about acceptance, sexuality, loneliness, religious intolerance and show the humanity of black women. An audiovisual work of resistance to the narratives created by machismo and racism throughout universal history. This story begins with an exercise in memory: remember most heroes and heroines in cinema. Remember? Now answer: how many have dark skin, discussing representativeness, prejudices and breaking stereotypes, all these elements were the inspiration of Pretas.
The second episode of the production, called Maria Felipa, stars the Pará native actress Joyce Cursino (@jocursino) as Abigail (Rosilene Alves), a boxer who divides her time between raising her little daughter, the challenge of winning in her career and the harsh reality of being a woman and black in Brazil and the Amazon in the chaos of a society that does not forgive color and dreams of a child.
Racism, breaking stereotypes, representativeness and empowerment are at the base of this plot. When asked about the places that the pilot of the web-series has been reaching, director Lucas Moraga explained that since the conception of the project, the proposal was to reach high flights. “We were always sure that we were doing a work that wouldn’t just be in our city, but I didn’t imagine that in such a short time we could have such incredible opportunities and this motivates us to want to continue looking for even higher flights. We’re very happy,” he explains.
The idea of the series is to bring reflections about the place of black women in society and how much they need to speak and be heard. How many black women do we see represented in a real way in stories? How many times has a black man been represented as a hero in the movies? If our story is loaded with incredible black men and women, why do they generally occupy the role of demented or subordinate people? These were some of the questions that served as inspiration for the creation of PRETAS.
And there was no lack of inspiration for the construction of Abigail’s saga. “We had many inspirations, from actress Viola Davis’ speech at the Emmys in 2015 to classics that marked this important point of black representativeness in cinema. However, I highlight a work that was an enormous door of inspiration for us: the film Deus, meaning God, an unpublished short film directed by Vinícius Silva from São Paulo that portrays the routine of a black woman and her daily experiences with her son,” says Lucas.
The prejudice against blacks in Brazil is a current theme. Pretas is the denunciation and cry of people who are daily silenced and considered invisible. “It has always bothered me to never see myself represented on the screens of the cinema and this is ramified in several sectors in terms of audiovisuals. The cry for representativeness is the very denunciation against a whole ideology of standard aesthetics that urgently needs to be broken. Black women in the cinema do not make up to 3% and this is very troubling. So, making a web-series with the entire theme focused on them is a huge challenge, but one that we face with great respect and strength so that they are properly represented and have their places of speech respected,” he said.
Besides being directed by Moraga, PRETAS features scripts by Joyce Cursino and Priscilla Silva. Among the web-series awards, we have: In Osga 2016, the pilot was the big winner of the night, winning the awards for Best Film, Best Director (Lucas Moraga), Best Actress (Rosilene Alves), Best Editing (André Negreiros and Lucas Moraga), Best Production (Izabella Reis) and Best Costume (Lanna Celli and Lucas Moraga). In 2017, it won at the Festival da Freguesia do Ó, in São Paulo, in the category Best Pilot Episode. It was also selected for the 39th Festival du Court métrage de Clermont-Ferrand, in France, one of the largest film festivals in the world.
The reaction to the news of selection at the French festival was a mixture of sensations. “The Clermont Ferrand Festival is the biggest in France and from that we will have even more visibility. And being at the Brazilian stand of the festival left us immensely fulfilled”, he commented.
In 2018, the production was awarded the Best Diversity Series at the Rio Web Fest 2018, an important international web-series festival. This award was a milestone for being a political award, which dialogues with the premises of the web-series.
Pretas is a project of social affirmation, and should not stop only at the exhibition at the Osga Festival. The film is a pilot of the web-series that the Coletivo Invisível wants to produce on the theme. The short film can be seen on the channel of the production company Invisível Filmes on YouTube.