Santa Marta: Two Weeks in the Slum

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Sociopolitical Documentary published by Others in 1987 - Portuguese narration

also known as

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Image: Santa-Marta-Two-Weeks-in-the-Slum-Cover.jpg

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This documentary portrays the everyday life of the inhabitants of Santa Marta, a favela in the Botafogo area of Rio de Janeiro. It focuses on the positive aspects of life in the favelas – such as music, dancing, drinking, socialising and religious practices – rather than on crime.

The film starts with a street survey of the professions of different slum-dwellers and immediately shows beautiful panoramic views of Rio from the favela, while the soundtrack features a song about the happiness of life in the slums: even though living in the slums makes one happy because the favela can be a paradise with open doors, fighting for survival is needed because the world is so ‘perverse’.

The film traces the history of the settlement as far back as 1935. In this same direction, most of the interviewees say that they were born in the favela as an expression of their origin and identity. The film also emphasises the community networks that give social cohesion to the inhabitants of Santa Marta, by showing scenes of the meetings at the Neighbours’ Association and their projects of organised work. In their collective discussions, they denounce the police and the media as those responsible for their criminalisation (sometimes to cover up the police’s own crimes). The gender and sexuality dimensions of the favela are present as well: the film incorporates issues such as the ‘importance’ of women, domestic violence, machismo and an interview with a former transvestite who is also part of the community. Religion is depicted as vital to their existence, both in terms of their syncretic beliefs and colourful rituals. They see no clash between Catholicism and Spiritualism. Plenty of music and dancing is presented, thus showing the artistic dimension of this favela. Particularly powerful is a dance accompanying the following insightful lyric that directly links poverty to art: ‘In order to be poor in this country, you have to be an artist’. The music of the film was both composed and played by the morro’s [hill] residents.

Most of the interviews are on location, but some of them are recorded in an empty room with a TV set switched on, on a chair next to the interviewee. The interviewers’ voices are heard but their images are, in most of the scenes, not shown. The protagonists also act as interviewers as well as interviewees: they criticise and put questions to the policemen who watch the entrance of the favela. They question their ‘power to grab others’ attention and stop them in the streets. Special attention is drawn to the faces of the interviewees who are presented mostly through close-up shots.

Directed by Eduardo Coutinho, one of the most important names in Brazilian film-making.

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Video Codec: XviD
Video Bitrate: 1724 kbps
Video Resolution: 624x464
Video Aspect Ratio: 1.345:1
Audio Codec: AC3
Audio Bitrate: 192kb/s CBR 48000 Hz
Audio Languages: Portuguese
RunTime: 54:11
Part Size: 745MB
Subtitles: English
Ripped by: Dentje

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