Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Melinda and Melinda. Favela and Favela.

I don’t watch many movies but I never miss a Woody Allen. There's something about his mainstream yet thoughtful storylines that have got me hooked. For those of you who have not seen one of his maybe early 2000s films titled Melinda and Melinda, I highly recommend it and invite you to download/upload/stream whatever the kids are doing these days. The film starts off with an unstable woman crashing an uptown nyc dinner party and continues as her life unfolds. The theme of the film is that any story can have two sides: a comedic and positive one or a tragic and negative one.

Usually in the morning when I'm out my apartment door, I walk down the busy street of Siquiera Campos with the same routine: Pass the juice shop, grab a juice. Mmmm...vitamina de abacate [avocado smoothie]. Pass by the news stand, take a quick look at the headings. Keep walking. But this morning a heading caught my eye: 

washington post, july 24, 2012 [complexo do alemao]
A little shaken, a little curious, I continue on my way. It follows as most morning do. Catch my bus, pay the bus driver the 2.75 Reals (or 3.30 if I happen to step on the one with AC), pass the turnstile, grab a seat, and stick in my headphones. Every day on my way to work I listen to my downloaded Pimsleur Portuguese lessons, desperately hanging on every cheesy dialogue trying to learn as fast as possible and get me in favela mode before arriving. “Repeat after me: I don’t have many wives but I do have lots of money.” Thanks Pimsleur, super helpful. But at least I know how to say it in Portuguese now. At any rate, it’s better than nada. Anyways, as I usually forget one thing on my way out the door (thank god today it wasn’t keys or cash this time….maybe I share those stories later). Well, today it was my bberry aka my Portuguese lessons. So feeling a bit naked, I remembered I had my new 1999 brazilian cell phone with me, where I had just downloaded a February 2012 BBC podcast on the current state of the Rio favelas, post-pacification. So podcast it was for the next hour or two. BIG MISTAKE.

The above podcast (which I do encourage you to listen to as many of the facts are true) puts a horribly dismal, depressing, and tragic spin on one of the most beautiful and optimistic communities I've ever known. The newscaster speaks at great lengths about the favela's dreary future projections, unhappiness among the community, hopelessness in its improvements…and not in one minute of the 23 minute story does it touch on any of the beauty, arts, or even generally happy undertones that these people project. Even the delivery itself, her overly concerned voice, the devastating visual description of the favela, her description of the presence of armed police (UM HI DETROIT)....all completely sensationalized to paint as negative of a picture as possible.

The sad thing is that the BBC and the Washington Post are not alone. Upon arriving home I was greeted by my roommates (with their best intentions) asking me if I was ok after hearing all about the story of the police officer in the Complexo from a long line of news sources. All of Rio was talking about it today. Ok? Of course I'm ok! I just had one of the most joyful days maybe ever in my life, spending the day painting murals on a favela school with the students themselves...learning portuguese, exchanging music and learning the latest "funk" dance moves from some of the happiest little kids I've ever met. But that's just the thing. It is nearly IMPOSSIBLE to find any story written on the favelas that catches a glimpse of this happiness or even with a slight positive swing - unless it the direct website of one of the amazing favela based NGOs doing beautiful things in the community...Community in Action, Afroreggae, Marlandia.... 

Take a look at this picture of my view this morning. What do you see? 

view from teleferico ride [complexo do alemao]

Remember this one?

random picture I remembered from 4th grade art class

The point is that every story can be spun in two completely opposing ways. I am not saying that things are bright, cheery and perfect in the favela. Like what just happened yesterday to the police officer from the elite force in the Complexo do Alemao is very sad, as well as symbolic. But you know what, a similar death probably happened yesterday in Pittsburgh too. I’m not claiming to be an expert on the matter of the favela by any means, nor have I lived through the incredibly difficult and violent life that was the reality of the favelas pre-pacification. I have even heard some shocking first hand accounts of how difficult and unbearable it was at times. But through all of the dark days, and especially now post-pacification, there is - and has been - a much brighter and beautiful side as well that is just as worth sharing as its negative. 

Back to the above pics....dirty shantytown or colorfully expressive community? ugly old woman or beautiful young girl? Your eyes, your choice. But just know that both sides exist.

****In HAPPY non-soap boxy news DIANA COMES TOMORROW MORNING!!! :) *****

1 comment:

  1. What a beautiful commentary Julie, I feel like I'm right there with you, but BE SUPER CAREFUL!! love you!! Mom (from Detroit)