TV Series Reis da Rua shows the creative side of the suburbs of Sao Paulo
“Your mother wrote me a letter saying that if you could stay with me for as long as I want but if I don’t want you anymore I can give you to an orphanage because she got married again, has other children and doesn’t want you anymore.”
Tia Eva (Reis da Rua . Season 1 . Episode 7)
Eva Marisa Alves, 57, know as “tia Eva” (“aunt Eva”) went to Sao Paulo when she was 12 years of age, searching for a better life after running away to avoid going to an orphanage. Things didn’t work well and she ended up living on the streets. After a while living hard days on the streets of the big city, she went to work for a woman who helped her. In 1980 she moved to an area called “comunidade do Glicerio” (“Glicerio’s community”), one poor area in the suburbs of Sao Paulo. Alves used to see the kids wandering around the streets after coming back from school (in Brazil schools are part time and kids who can’t afford other activities, such as the ones from less privileged areas) end up in the streets, watching all the violence and drug dealing that surround the suburbs of Brazil’s big cities.
She decided to invite them to go to the church with her but they said that the only place they would go with her would be a soccer field. Alves didn’t have a place, didn’t know anything about the sport but she decided to do something. She went to the local authorities, got a place, saved money and today she’s responsible for around 250 children from the community of Glicerio, who go there every afternoon to play soccer. “Tia Eva” gives them more than a place to spend some time. She feeds them, she takes care of them, she helps their mothers (many of them single mums), she makes sure they’re doing well at school. She gives them hope and teaches them to dream about a better life.
Stories such as the one of Eva Marisa Alves are part of the Brazilian documentary series Reis da Rua (“Kings of Streets”), aired by the TV channel Cultura. In its second season, the series shows stories about local leaders, warriors, artists, who with courage and talent became celebrities, defeating the hard truth of their personal daily “reality show”. Created and directed by Leandro HBL, a young and established director who has worked with filming in the last 15 years, Reis da Rua was born after he finished filming the movie “Favela On Blast” (2008): “I realized that there is a strong cultural movement in the suburbs of the big cities with a huge range of talents and characters that were not shown in the mainstream media. I thought that showing what is happening there would be something positive,” explains HBL.
Each episode of Reis da Rua consists of mini-documentaries showing the lives of the characters. According to HBL, they are strong and talented people, who are persistent in chasing their dream and who want to be seen or listened to: “We’ll show what makes each of the chosen people celebrities, approaching their work, relationship with the community, life history, family and intimacy to present them as fully as possible.”
The less privileged areas in Brazil, the suburbs, are often showed in the mainstream media with negative aspects, related to violence and drug dealing and people tend to forget – or to not realize – that the people who live in those areas are just regular people and not all criminals and drugged. The main goal of Reis da Rua is to make people stop looking at the suburbs as a nuisance and start seeing them as a creative and economic possibility: “I think that since the Favela on Blast what people realized is that there is something shiny there that does not need the ‘seal’ of the official media to be cool or to have cultural validity. It exists and it is dynamic and engaging. The suburbs around the world talk to each other, copy each other and are reference to each other. It’s sensational and something very strong! The ‘critical’ look over the exploitation that exists in a deprived and over-exploited by capitalism environment should still exist but I think there is an ‘embryonic’ environment being born there, which is the engine of the cultural revolution of this century.
One of the most striking stories covered by Reis da Rua to HBL is the one about “Nego Blue”: “when I met him he used to sell carpets door to door and today he is the leading name in the outskirts of Sao Paulo and one of the big names in Brazil. His videos on Youtube have millions of views, his 30 minute show is sold by ten thousand Reais (Brazilian currency, which equals to almost 5,000 dollars). His songs are played on the radio and tours throughout Brazil. Having helped to “discover” him and his talent was something really exciting.”
Reis da Rua got 3% of the national audience, which means around 300 thousand homes and almost one million people. “We are a show that is not appealing (like many reality shows aired today) and has no presenter, so in itself it is a phenomenon. And considering the reaction in social media I can see that the show already represents “something”, it is becoming a landmark in terms of giving birth to an important thing that always happened but had so little space in the media. And people realize that,” says HBL. The director says that social media is the main tool for the less privileged people and the cultural movement we are living: “The new cultural revolution is no more middle class intellectual (the libertarian movements from the 1960s and 70s). It comes from the suburbs with access to the means of cultural production, internet and cheap technology.”
HBL sees the social prejudice as the main issue in relation to how people outside the suburbs see people who live there: “It is even bigger than the race prejudice I think. But gradually, these cultural events are gaining more and more space. Today every media vehicle has some section or program dedicated to cultural productions from the classes “C” and “D”. Especially because with social networks and YouTube, there is no way to ignore these phenomena.” An EP CD has been produced and will be launched soon with songs from some of the characters of the documentary, such as Mc Dede and Mc Nego Blue and Mosquito Project/BANDO, the group responsible for the production of Reis da Rua is negotiating international exhibitions of it.
* Photos courtesy of Mosquito Project/BANDO