Gathering first-hand feedback from members of these communities, Sarah O’Sullivan (journalist and lover of Rio) gives the voices of the unheard a microphone as she follows police attempts to clear gangs from Rio de Janeiro’s favelas. Listen to her radio documentary, unveiling the feelings of those directly affected by these changes, here: THE RIGHT TO REMAIN IN SILENCE
Read about how Sarah’s love story with Rio began and her personal views on UPP ‘triumph’ below:
Love at first sight
My connection with Rio started nine years ago, when I spent Carnaval, sharing a tiny flat in Copacabana with around ten girls from Ireland, England, Australia, and Israel. My plan had been to spend Carnaval in Trinidad, and was on my way north to look for a boat when an Irish friend Laoise successfully harassed me into coming to Rio. A huge city, Rio was not on my itinerary for my trip around south America, preferring to keep it local kinda styling. Best laid plans and all that - coming to Rio changed my life. I instantly fell in love with the beat, the smiles, the energy, the messiness, that was and is Rio de Janeiro. I knew I wanted to spend some part of my life living in this city that made me feel so very alive and excited by life.
Anyway, life passed a few years, and I suddenly noticed how bored I was in my Dublin life, so decided to take the plunge and move to Rio, with my young daughter (she was two at the time). It was a spontaneous decision, and immediately seemed daft when I arrived to a wet and rainy city, not knowing a soul, and not speaking the language (turns out my fluency had been greatly whetted by Cachaca the first time round). Stubborn to the core, I didn’t admit my mistake, and stayed for the long haul.
“Rio Breaks tells the story of two best friends, Fabio and Naama, as they navigate their way between life in the slums and surfing on their favorite beach. Thirteen-year-old Fabio and twelve-year-old Naama live in a huge favela near Arpoador Beach, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. What will happen to these best friends? Will their friendship survive the pressures of life in the favela? Can surfing offer a way out and the possibility of a better life?
This is the story of Rio Breaks.”
Unfortunately, screening of Rio Breaks has been and gone (oops!), but I’m pretty desperate to see this so as soon as i hear any info, I’ll be sure to update!
So, Happy July 4th everyone! And seeing so the US and the rest of the world has lost their favorite son, its kind of a bittersweet celebration by all accounts. But its fair to say that American pop culture has really taken a bashing this week with the loss of Farrah Fawcett also, so although I wouldn’t normally acknowledge American holidays, this one has a special poignance to it. And its means I can use it as an excuse to post another MJ tribute!! Speaking of which I went to the amazing Santa Marta favela - located a few hundred metres from el Christo which was the location of the shooting of the They Don’t Care About Us video. I timed the visit to coincide with the week anniverary of his passing, and left a single white rose as an vastly insubstnacial means to say thank you and I love you to my all time hero… . So anyhoo, whilst there I drew the attention of some local kinder, and wouldntchaknow, after learning of my reason d’etre, they treated me to a little MJ dance off - t’was quite surreal! Looking out over the most beautiful view of Rio Ive ever seen, standing where MJ once stood, feeling like elation & heartbreak all at once - special memories being made right there y’all. So, as I was posting the images you see here, I was quite taken aback to see one of the kid`s is actually giving the hand salute for the Red Command (Comando Vermelho) drug gang (hence the c and V sign)!! WTF! This was happy Michaeling moments not trafficking! And I mean that literally and figuratively because Santa Marta was the first favela in Rio to be made traffick fee (and free internet as a ‘reward’) And for the record, its hella (sorry) nice to be able to wander around a community and not have to worry whose watching from where, being careful to not mention where you live etc. Funnily enough, when I returned home to Vidigal it seemed that things had returned to normality - normality being bandits everywhere! Like three times the normal amount like they’ve been either recruiting or cloning -one of the two - so as you can see in the pic I was feeling happiest I had in a long while! Well not plaesed that theres guns everywhere but … you know! So here’s tribute Estelle stylee to our all-time favourite American Boy, Michael Jackson, thinnly disguised as a celebration to American Independence! Nahaha!(And heads up to Kanye for, “feeling like Mike at his baddest!”)
Not happy days on the hill unfortunately. Seems the police elite squad are gonna be doing a sustained attack here in Vidigal, which makes me feel warm and tingley for all the wrong reasons. The second BOPE (elite squad) tank rolled in today and left a few hours alter which probably means they’re figuring the best attack route. Cant imagine they came in for afternoon tea if you know what Im saying. Its weird because I’ve done a little research and I know the BOPE ( pronounced bopee) are a Government arm, are subordinate to the civil police - of whom they take no notice of anyway- and are actually a made up of officers who refused to partake in the usual ritual of killing a street kid on order to be part of the normal military. But don’t let that fool you into thinking they are somehow more compassionate. Check out their logo! I mean what kind of Government allows their military to be represented by that? And the fact is they’re going up there to try and kill teenagers and young men involved in the trafficking often out of the fact they are given little options. I interviewed a bandit from Vidigal only last week. He was smart, polite, a real gentleman and full of regret about cretain decisions he had made in his life, yet holding true to the opinion that it was either this life, or end up with nothing - just another young black guy from a slum who never had a chance. Now, I`m not condoning violence, never have and never will but the fact that the police are came in two days ago and are coming again to tray and kill this man devastates me. I`m praying for his life. Anyway, Brazil is perhaps the one place on earth where you could actually wax lyrical about the virtues of crime, and on that note I’m posting Dead Prez because sometimes people genuinely need crime to get by… c’est la vie.
So, in contention for my personal best day-out in Rio ever, I would like to give praise and thanks to Raizes De Movimento – a social awareness faction based in Rio’s Most Dangerous Favela TM* ; Complexo Do Alemao. Amongst many other socially conscious projects, Raizes were responsible for the gathering up of a whole host of national and international graff artist for a day long jam in the favela last weekend! Beleeeeze! Absolutely amazing to witness, seriously. Im gonna report more on the function Of Raizes Do Movimento, who basically operate in a similar tenet to Afroreggae; encouraging and motivating young ‘uns through artists expression. That is as soon as I can translate the email they sent me! But whilst Im doing this please enjoy the photographic evidence of some of the marvellous happenings and there’s more to come so stay posted!
Oh, yeah. I might as well tell you that ever single favela has a reputation for being ‘Rio’s Most Dangerous Favela TM’; a tag which does little to remove the stigma of favela living, (although neither does posting the image of a shoot-out but whatever – aaaawesome canvas painting!). You see, apparently I live in Rio’s Most dangerous favela, (Vidigal) but then so is Rochina, and City Of God. So I’m referencing some British Corporal in Iraq who when commenting on the Green Mile being the ‘Most Dangerous Road In The World’ said; “The most dangerous road in the world is the one the bus runs you over on.”
Loads more pics apres le jump…
Just like an exotic, hardcore episode of Emmerdale really.
There is a general sense of tranquility here which sometimes is even a little more worrying in that kind of, “Its all gone quiet” said Rubarb, “Too quiet” said Mustard’ kind of way, but for now I’m most certainly not complaining.
So Rochina, It was fun, I’ll miss all-week par-tays, the sushi, and of course the lovely surfer’s spot Sao Corado - but it was either I leave you, or my sanity leaves me, so ate proxima!
I’ll be writing more on the stinky craziness of Rochina vs the tranquil delights of Vidgal in the forthcoming weeks but for now I’m leaving you with my favourite Baile funk video filmed in Rochina, Vem Danadinho (which means ‘naughty boy’ - I think). Coming up apres le jump is and some pics taken around and about Rochina so go check `em out. Although I will apologise for these photos here. You see, I needed good pics of Vidigal’s visual and although I don’t remember much about these pictures being taken its pretty obvious that whatever the hell I thought I was doing in the first one, I was very obviously crapping my pants in the second. Nahahaha!