THE GOOD FIGHT (A vida é uma luta)


My relationship with Alan and with Brazil began properly 12 years ago when we met in a boxing ring.

I had just begun living in Rio and as a keen amateur boxer, I had become involved with the NGO “Luta pela Paz”. It was using a methodology involving martial arts, education and personal development to realise the potential of  young people in favela communities just like Alan, who were affected by crime, violence and social exclusion..

Although many of his friends and family became victims of the violent drug trade and other dangers for Rio’s marginalised communities, the project helped Alan to make better choices. He was a positive person who had managed to seize the opportunities that the NGO offered to him and he ended up working for Luta pela Paz as a boxing coach and as a mentor.

However, when his brother became the ninth close family member to die as a result of the armed conflict, he decided that wasn’t enough.  He decided he needed to do something in the nearby favela community where he was now living. He wanted his son and the young people of the vast favela community of Complexo do Alemão to have the same chance that he had been given.

In 2015, Alan founded his own project “Abraço Campeão” (Embracing Champions) with some old boxing gloves and punch bags from Luta pela Paz that were due to be thrown away. I was deeply impressed by what he then managed to build with his own time and money. It became a beautiful project in its own right, with a family feel that began to do life changing work. It’s somewhere I have loved boxing myself, as has my young son on the occasions I have taken him, so when Alan asked me to make an institutional film for them I readily agreed.

However, I knew that I wanted to make something more ambitious that would really shine a light on both the problems that face so many in Brazilian favela communities and the special work that Alan was doing. I took my friend Neirin Jones  to meet Alan. He was another Englishman in Rio and a talented cinematographer, who also had a love of boxing. After just one boxing session at Abraço Campeão, he was just as keen to tell Alan’s story as I was.

Alan’s story was not unique. The perseverance and warmth of many of my Brazilian friends in difficult circumstances is something that never fails to inspire me and deserves both recognition and celebration. However Alan felt different. There was something so amazing in his attitude and his purity of spirit as he managed to take such an ugly situation and turn it into something so beautiful.

Like Alan, we had limited resources, and filming in a conflict zone was not always straightforward. We had guns pointed at us and we had to abandon filming due to gun battles on several occasions.  But the community as well as participants on all sides of the armed conflict were very supportive of our work. Our filming crew was just two people, but there was always a small army of both children and adults ready to lend their assistance to our efforts and make us feel utterly at home.

Since the making of this film, Brazil has been in a sustained period of economic and political crisis and the violence has only got worse. Alan has now also lost a tenth member of his family to the armed conflict: his 12 year old cousin, Lucas. However, the NGO has continued to grow and now has over 100 members. Their work has evolved and their efforts are quite literally life saving.

Through the footage we captured, Alan’s work has inspired industry professionals from London to LA, who have now formed a talented team, who like Alan, are investing their own time and money to help the cause. Thanks to them, we were able to give Alan the film he deserved, we have posters and a website and the NGO is getting a new design identity. This team also continue to support our mission to take the film and the story of “Abraço Campeão” to an ever larger global audience, who in turn, will hopefully also be inspired to support Alan and join the good fight!



BEIJA FILMS in association with MOTHER LONDON presents


Directed and Produced by Ben Holman
Director of Photography - Neirin Jones
Original Music - Maga Bo, Ben Lamar Gay, MC Cidinho
Editor - Ben Holman
Grade - Richard Fearon at MPC
Sound Design - Scramble
Additional Sound Design - Sounds and Sons
Graphic Design - Marcos Gemal at Mother London
Executive Producer - Hermeti Balarin  

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