Documentary exposes World Cup wounds Brazil refuses to acknowledge

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Brazilian police raise their guns to pacify the Mangueira community. Photo courtesy of http://www.paebiru.com/.

An independently filmed and funded documentary that has investigated the billions of dollars invested on the upcoming World Cup and Olympics in Rio de Janeiro will lose all its funding if their target is not reached this week.

The project has provided a voice for favela residents to speak out against the construction of venues and supporting structures in their communities. The project has denounced crimes committed against inhabitants of the slums since the preparation for the international sporting events started. But these voices will be lost if not enough money is raised.

Domínio Público, or Public Domain, has revealed through research and gut-wrenching interviews with the affected people, that thousands of people have been removed from their homes illegally, and some without previous warning, to make space for private sector investments and touristic structures.

It is estimated that 30 to 35 thousand people have so far been removed, and that the gain of citizens with the new structures is minimum in comparison.

Public Domain has already released a short film with its findings, but the ultimate goal is to make a documentary of an hour and a half that will dig deeper into the subject.

“We started by asking ourselves why only certain slums were being pacified by the government and others weren’t,” says Fausto Mota, producer and director of the film. “Why were favelas in the south of Rio being pacified, especially those around the Maracana? When we dug into the research we found out that the UPPs (Police Pacifying Unit) were being funded by Eike Batista, by Coke and by CBF.

“We got worried, why was Eike Batista [a Brazilian business magnate] interested in donating to the UPPs? Then we started going to the favelas and talking to people who were removed – and this is the most serious issue. We realized Rio is receiving a social cleanse, to be completely honest.

“Public land should be used, by law, for social housing, but instead big companies are taking this land and making big investments that won’t benefit the citizens of Rio.”

The short film posted online, produced by the independent film company Paêbirú Realizações Cultivadas, has statements from big names such as congressman and ex-footballer Romário, congressman Marcelo Freixo and expert on the subject professor Carlos Vainer.

“The map of the pacified areas in Rio de Janeiro is very clear,” explains congressman Marcelo Freixo in the film, as a map pops up so the viewer can visualize the issue.

“There’s UPPs in the hotels area in the south zone of the city, there’s some in the Morro da Providencia because of the port, there are some around Maracanã and some in City of God, which is the only place in Jacarépaguá that isn’t taken over by militia.

“The UPPs map is revealing of a city project where territory is being retaken so that an investment city can be a possibility.”

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Resident of a favela tells the camera the government is removing the poor to introduce the rich to his community. Photo courtesy of http://www.paebiru.com/

But the raw reality of the documentary lies in statements by the residents of the favelas who are still fighting to keep their space on the carioca hills.

Ney Ferreira, resident of Morro da Providencia and member of the Residents’ Committee in Defence of Housing, says the construction of a cable car in his community has destroyed a public square and threatened to remove around 2,000 people from their houses. Although they managed to stop the removal of the residents, the construction is still going ahead and Ferreira notes that it’s not being built for the benefit of the local community.

“We want to defend people’s rights and Fausto [Mota] heard of our movement and we got together and managed to stop the construction and removal.

“But what I say in the documentary is this: who is this cable car for? It’s not for the population of Providencia, that’s for sure. The main paradox of the cable car is that it doesn’t even reach the highest point of the hill.

“They’ve destroyed a square where kids used to play, Américo Brums Square, that was the only place they had to play and now it’s gone.”

Ferreira reveals that the cable car will leave from Central do Brasil, go up to the destroyed square and then go back down straight to the City of Samba, a tourist spot. According to him, residents of the community will have zero opportunities to use the car despite all the turmoil the building of it has caused in their favela.

“There hasn’t been any participation from the residents, actually when we got together to suggest things they didn’t accept any of it. The project got here, whether we want it or not. By law, there was supposed to be six months of social preparation for the people who live here so they know of the situation, but this wasn’t done.

“Around R$ 4milion were allocated to do this, but it hasn’t been done – where has this money gone?”

Structures that would benefit Morro da Providencia were also promised when the project started, but nothing has been done to make them a reality. A sporting park and a health care unit are supposed to be built, but Ferreira says so far not a brick has been laid.

“I asked and they said there isn’t space for a health unit. They promised a sports centre too and so far, nothing. It’s been one year and a bit, and all we’ve had are demolitions and the construction of the cable car.”

The story of Ney Ferreira and his community is one of many included in the short-film posted on the website to raise funds (http://catarse.me/pt/dominiopublico). Coverage of the problems the World Cup works have brought to the population of the slums has been scarce by Brazilian press, and the goal of the project is to inform people in Rio and all around the world.

“The objective is not the citizen’s interest, the well-being of the citizens. The government has turned into a business bank where entrepreneurs go and make their bid, make their investments and when it’s about business, what matters is making the most profit possible. If that means removing people from their homes and building a resort, that’s what they’ll do.”

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In an innovative way to bring information to those who need it, the Public Domain crew set up a cinema in the middle of the favelas to teach the inhabitants they must stick together. Photo courtesy of http://www.paebiru.com/.

The situation has already been noticed by the UN but nothing has been done to punish those responsible for it.

“According to the human rights, when you remove a person from their home, that person must already have a key to go to a new place,” explains Romário on camera. “And what is happening is the removal of these people in an inhumane, illegal manner. The UN has already noted that, but people keep on going unpunished, unfortunately.”

The lack of dignity in which the residents were treated shows through in the short film. Mota said that interviewing people who were taken out of their own homes was “complicated”, as they clearly had lost their homes and sometimes most of their belongings.

He said: “It was obvious that these people were emotional, holding it together so they wouldn’t cry, they were appalled with the way they were treated. Dona Graça [shown in the short film] said ‘I wanted them to at least have told me to leave with four days in advance, so I could at least put my things together’.

“She lost her TV, fridge, sofa… it was raining and there weren’t any tricks to move her furniture so the saved a few pieces of clothes and had to go to her sister’s house. But she lost everything. The next day they had already destroyed and smashed her house.”

Despite great response to their video and having raised R$60,000 for the project so far, Mota says the people who most need to be informed have no means to reach their online page as the majority of favelas have no internet connection and suffer from digital exclusion.

“We do something called Cine Ataque [Cinema Attack] where we bring a projector and screen to the communities and put it all together in the middle of the street for everyone to see.”

Even with these efforts, Public Domain is struggling to get one message across: unity. Mota believes that to fight the government’s plans for the city, communities must come together, like Ferreira’s community has done. Mota hopes that with a longer film he will be able to push this point across more easily.

If the fundraising doesn’t reach its R$90,000 target by November 16th, they will lose all the money raised so far as the website they are using works with an “all or nothing” system.

“What we thought we were going to find – it was just the tip of the iceberg,” he says. “So we need the money to dig even deeper.”

A version of the short film in English is available on http://catarse.me/pt/dominiopublico .

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Photos courtesy of Domínio Público.

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Edit: as of 15/11/2012 the project reached its target and will be going ahead with the longer version of the documentary. I still recommend you watch and donate, as the more money they get the more voices will be heard.

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