The uncredited musician who appears teaching Anderson and the other AfroReggae members how to play percussion instruments, and who is responsible for conceiving the very basis of the AfroReggae band sound is Marcos Suzano. See more »
Dazzling, spiritually uplifting documentary about redeeming a Rio slum
Scintillating documentary about how a small group of idealistic young men have used music, art and dance to unify and heal the community of Vigario Geral, one of the most violent slum neighborhoods in Rio ("favela" means neighborhood in Portuguese), offering to its young people a positive alternative to the lethal gangster world of drug traffickers.
In their feature film-making debut, Zimbalist and Mochary have crafted a movie that is breathtaking because it works on so many different levels. As social document, it gives the facts we need to know to have a context for understanding the significance of the particular story told here. The story itself is well developed, with a strong narrative arc, and, for added measure, it is shot through with keen suspense. There's an arresting, charismatic central protagonist, Anderson Sa: he's a savvy natural leader, articulate, courageous, spiritually evolved, a talented performer, a visionary who walks his talk.
There's also plenty of music and dancing to entertain. There are talking heads mainly Sa and his closest associate, Jose Junior - but they are presented with imaginative cinematic brilliance. The editing nicely mixes footage of differing themes, punctuated only occasionally by a few fact-filled still texts. The pace is as lively as the music. A lot gets accomplished in 78 minutes.
Grupo Afro Reggae, the neighborhood social club that Anderson, Junior and a few others formed in 1993, deploy music and dance as the weapons to go up against the drug lords and the duplicitous police. They teach percussion skills to any kid who wants to join a class, along with dance, martial arts, a community newspaper. The only requirement for kids to belong is no smoking, no drinking, no drugs. There is a subtle, soft sell spiritual fabric running through the movement, loosely based on the Hindu God Shiva, the destroyer of old habits.
Jeff Zimbalist, who also was the lead cinematographer and the editor, is a Modern Culture and Media student at Brown University. He burnished his chops editing feature documentaries for PBS and others, and he teaches film at the New York Film Academy and elsewhere. Matt Mochary, like Andrew Jarecki ("Capturing the Friedmans") did a few years ago, recently came to film from the business world.
Zimbalist and Mochary together won the award for best new filmmakers at the 2005 TribBeCa Film Festival, and "Favela Rising" was tied for the best film of the year in awards made for 2005 by the International Documentary Association. I could go on for pages about Afro Reggae, Sa, and this movie. A way better idea is simply for you to go see it! My grade: A 10/10
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