Co-directed by American filmmakers Jeff Zimbalist and Matt Mochary, this Oscar-nominated documentary serves as a powerful companion piece to City Of God's account of gang warfare. Vividly shot on digital video in the streets of Rio, Favela Rising tells the inspirational story of Anderson Sa, a former drug dealer in the notorious district of Vigario Geral, who galvanized his violence-plagued community by setting up the AfroReggae music and dance movement.
The calmly charismatic Anderson was just 10 years old, when he saw a man have his brains blown out in the street in a gangland-dispute, and he remembers regularly falling asleep at night to the sound of "gunshots and screaming". But after a police reprisal raid, in which 21 innocent citizens from his neighbourhood, including one of his brothers, were massacred by the authorities, he resolved to try and stop the bloodshed.
Together with DJ Jose Junior, Anderson set up the AfroReggae group, which fused hip-hop, reggae and African-Brazilian sounds, played packed local concerts and later acquired an international record deal. Crucially AfroReggae also founded cultural workshops and programmes, which provided youngsters from the ghetto with self-empowering alternatives to the criminal world.
Given that camera crews aren't exactly welcomed by the various gangs in Vigario Geral, Zimbalist and Mochary should be commended for presenting this candid perspective of favela life. Anderson's own efforts to rehabilitate himself after a life-threatening accident add further resonance, but above all Favela Rising is an important reminder of how human beings can unite to effect grass-roots social change
In Spanish with English subtitles.