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Favela Rising (2005)

A man emerges from the slums of Rio to lead the nonviolent cultural movement known as Afro-reggae.

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10 wins & 2 nominations. See more awards »
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Credited cast:
Andre Luis Azevedo ...
Jose Junior ...
Michele Moraes ...
Anderson Sa ...
Zuenir Ventura ...


A man emerges from the slums of Rio to lead the nonviolent cultural movement known as Afro-reggae.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Their music fueled a movement. His message fought a war.




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Release Date:

10 March 2006 (UK)  »

Also Known As:

Afro Reggae  »

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Did You Know?


A significant part of the archive footage showing police violence was not made at Vigário Geral, but in other areas of Rio de Janeiro, and widely shown on Brazilian TV news programs. See more »


Referenced in 30 for 30: The Two Escobars (2010) See more »


Song of the Black Lizzard
Performed by Pink Martini
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User Reviews

Hype hagiography suffers from glamorizing, superficial treatment and little research
26 December 2006 | by (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) – See all my reviews

I'd have little to add to bowlofsoul23's bull's-eye comment here. But as the first Brazilian (born, raised and living in Rio de Janeiro, in a neighborhood just a few miles away from the favela of Vigário Geral, depicted in the film) to comment on U.S.-financed "Favela Rising" here on IMDb, I get mixed feelings: on the one hand, it's good that the dire situation of Brazilian favelas are getting more attention from filmmakers and the media, both from Brazil and abroad, since local governments seem to have given up a long time ago. One the other hand, it's incredibly frustrating that "Favela Rising" turns out to be such a missed opportunity for enlightening Non-Brazilian audiences on the issue, because first-time directors Jeff Zimbalist and Matt Mochary (who are from the U.S. and, understandably, neophytes on the matter) turn the biography of AfroReggae group leader Anderson Sá into a glamorous canonization in this superficial, one-sided, under-researched and misleading documentary. Good intentions, muddled results. "Favela Rising" looks like a TV-ad, is shallow as a prime-time TV interview, and biased as a promotional video.

"Favela Rising" feels uncomfortably phony for a Brazilian viewer, and not only because of its hype visual treatment of a bleak reality, and its misplaced feel-good happy- ending. "City of God" is an obvious reference here, with COG actors Leandro Firmino and Jonathan Haagensen cameoing for no apparent reason other than "hype". "Favela Rising" is, allegedly, a documentary about the AfroReggae group and its leader Anderson Sá, but beware: when you see the scenes shot in favelas overlooking the beautiful Rio shore line, you might as well be warned that Vigário Geral (the home of AfroReggae and Anderson) is located in an area of Rio far away from ANY beach. Strange choice of location, to say the least.

"Favela Rising" is probably confusing for non-Brazilians, who won't know many of the interviewees (and the film won't tell them either) and will have to wait for the closing credits to find out that many of the songs on the soundtrack are NOT by the AfroReggae Band (though you'll get suspicious when you start to hear Pink Martini, of all people!). They won't know either that important issues were simply left unmentioned: why does the film push the notion that AfroReggae is a one-man project? Why not acknowledge the many partners who supply it with substantial financial and logistic support, like Rio's City Council, private Brazilian corporations, multinational recording companies and international NGOs, without which AfroReggae might not even subsist? Why not state clearly that Vigário Geral is still plagued by violent drug wars, and that its dwellers still live in constant fear of attacks by traffickers and cops? Why not state clearly that many of the archive footage clips showing police violence and corruption did NOT take place in Vigário Geral? HOW and WHY did the kid Richard Murilo finally join AfroReggae? WHY on freaking earth wasn't he interviewed once again at the end of the film?

As for Anderson himself, the film leaves a lot of loose ends for the viewer: what's the story about Anderson having "two" mothers? Is the baby he holds in his arms his son? Why is he inspired by Shiva? Is he a Buddhist? Why does a Candomblé woman appear on the beach when the films mentions Anderson's "miraculous" recovery from the accident? Is he a Candomblé follower? Why not let him explain the contradiction of starting a group that fights drugs and simultaneously praises Bob Marley? If AfroReggae is also a pride-building movement for black people from favelas, why are the girls in the AfroReggae band limited to booty-bouncing routines? No, you won't get any answers to these questions either.

Instead, the filmmakers are interested in turning Anderson Sá into a composite mix of pop-star, Malcolm X, Gandhi and Christ (check out that last image of the statue of Christ the Redeemer atop Corcovado hill, immediately after showing Anderson "miraculously" walking after his surgery). And that's the WORST thing the filmmakers could do to Anderson and his cause: turn him into a special CHOSEN one (by the time they show his surgery scar, you're ready to believe it's a mark from God).

Because what's remarkable about Anderson -- who's the most ordinary guy you could ever meet -- is that he helped change his environment NOT by being "special" but by copying and adapting winning projects (like the Olodum movement in Bahia, among others) to his own community, with strong support by friends, artists, intellectuals, politicians, businessmen and the media. If you're not fluent in Portuguese you probably won't notice that Anderson isn't particularly bright or articulate (unlike his sharply witty partner José Junior), as much as he isn't particularly talented as a singer, lyricist or musician. Yet his "ordinariness" might have been the film's true "inspirational" core: to show that ANYONE with idealism, perseverance and steady support can in fact contribute significantly to his or her community, no need to be Jesus incarnate. Because what really matters is the movement -- AfroReggae -- not the guy, see? Haven't we had enough of personality cult?

By the end of "Favela Rising", you probably won't know much more about Rio's favelas than you did when you walked in -- you'll just have SEEN what some of them look like.

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