Thursday, January 3, 2008
In the city of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 1.8 million people (one-third of the population) live in favelas.
One of those is the Pereirão favela, perched above the middle-class Rio de Janeiro neighbourhood of Laranjeiras. Here, 10 years ago, children started to build a colourful scale model of the slum that now covers 300 square metres. “Morrinho" or little hill, as they call their little favela, was a recreational option, a way to spend the time, to avoid going the way of drug trafficking gangs.
After school, children would spend their afternoons adding bricks, cleaning the ground where the Morrinho was being built, rebuilding after heavy rainfall, and play-acting scenes of everyday life: adults at work and children playing, stand-offs between the police and drug dealers, members of elite security forces patrolling the tiny streets.
Then police discovered that enormous detailed scale model and ordered its destruction because they thought it was part of a drug trafficking gang’s plan to invade a nearby neighbourhood... Fortunately children defended their project and convinced the police otherwise.
In 2001 filmmaker Fabio Gavião heard about the mini-favela and interviewed the boys for a documentary produced with their participation. The scale model became a tourist attraction. Finally the project received the artistic recognition it deserved, it was described as "art in situ".
Portions of the miniature reproduction have travelled around the world to art festivals like the Venice Biennale or exhibits in Barcelona and Paris.
Gavião and another local filmmaker, Julio Souto, bring to Morrinho their filmmaking and photography classes and manage to make a social organisation that would provide to the community language courses, skills training and other services.
But the miniature favela has already satisfied an even more important mission, creating a bridge between the favela and the middle-class and wealthy sections of the city, fighting prejudice and social discrimination.
It's interesting how children can influence our lives and the lives of others without really knowing it. Children are really innocent, and its neat that these boys that started this "mini city" did it to get away from all the corruption instead of just joining it....