THE GUARDIAN - Te Vejo Maré (I see You Maré) - 6 part series
Director Producer: Ben Holman
Produced by : Beija Films
This series of six films was commissioned by Guardian films and portray Rio de Janeiro's favelas as you have never seen them before. Film maker Ben Holman, of Beija Films, achieved unprecedented access to the largest and currently most notorious group of favelas, the Community of Maré. It was filmed over a five month period and based on a relationship of over six years.
Far from the usual clichéd portrayals, the films are an intimate and joyous picture of day to day life in the favela Community, with a vibrant soundtrack provided by the local talent. Presented by the residents themselves, each film follows a different charismatic personality and theme. From Roberto, the Olympic boxing hopeful, to Ninho the reformed drug dealer and Evangelical preacher, we see how each person is fighting for a better future for both themselves and their whole Community.
The armed conflict and other challenges are never far away, but neither is a strong sense of humour, which runs throughout. Through a series of dramatic events, we witness the incredibly rich cultural and spiritual life that exists in Maré and above all, the strong, unifying sense of community. The films give a voice to the silent majority of this amazing, yet marginalised Community and challenge some of the preconceptions that divide both Rio and many other cities around the World.
My relationship with the favela Community of Maré began in 2005, through the NGO, Fight for Peace. Initially, I was just looking for a place to do some boxing training, but I was so warmly received that I ended up working as a volunteer for the project, as well as representing the academy in boxing tournaments. Fight for Peace and the Community of Maré became my friends, my family and my roots in Brazil and the reason that I continue to divide my time between Rio and London.
Whilst only 1% of favela residents are involved directly in crime, media portrayals of favela communities continue to focus predominantly on the shocking images associated with the drugs and violence. Both Brazilians and foreigners often told me that I was "crazy" to even enter such a "dangerous" place. These films are a response to those preconceptions and lazy generalisations and are my answer to those who ask me what is so special about the Community of Maré.
The shocking violence does exist and touches all who live there, but I quickly learnt that it is just one part of the reality. I have come to feel safer and more accepted there than anywhere else in Rio. The overwhelming majority are warm, inspiring and often heroic people, who are using their creativity and determination to find ways to overcome severe oppression and lack of opportunities. Filming was deeply problematic at times, but the Community, including some of those directly involved in the violence, were incredibly supportive of my project. Through this collaboration, I was invited to share and capture many special events and private moments as a participant rather than as an outsider.
When the films were shown for the residents of Maré I couldn't not have been more happy with the incredible reaction they received. I hope that these films are a fair representation of the Community and in some way repay the support and love of all the people that live in my adopted home from home.
“I wouldn’t live anywhere else in Rio... it's beautiful to see everyone sitting outside their front door chatting with their neighbours. A good neighbour IS your family”
Galega (Maré resident and documentary contributor)