Review: Favella Rising

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What is a continued affirmation from such films is that Hip Hop, R&B, Soul and Reggae; and music of such genre have a moving affect on people of all colors.

(A scene from the film).

There are ghettos everywhere. This film documents those in Rio de Janeiro.

The Favela is a slum compared to the urban areas of New York City, Chicago and L.A. These shantytowns are crippled with poverty, crime and hopelessness. It is hard to discover a ray of hope in such an insurmountable reflection of dismay.

However, the story is all too familiar. It is only unique in that it takes place in a different part of the world that, to the mind, is unexpected or unheard of having low-income residents. However, every neighborhood has a ghetto.

In this film, the audience won’t discover that such popular places to vacation like Rio de Janeiro have places where tourists just don’t visit--nearby. They won’t discover that there are drug dealers. In addition, the women are attracted to them more than they are to “honest workers” and that the police are underpaid, under trained and are the most prejudiced; which may be why they are corrupt.

On the other hand, could they be corrupt because the government doesn’t care? Moreover, does the government not care because the people don’t care? That would be exactly true.  Until a fuss is made, no one can respond. And the audience still won’t discover anything new about this subject matter. This idea isn’t new. It isn’t original. It’s just a different level of revealing. A different place in the world. People already know that ghettos exist everywhere but those who consider telling the story still feel the need to make those suspected viewers gasp anyway.

Favela Rising documents a culture rising. When no one hears, someone creates a tiny voice. That, along with a few other voices, combines into a big one and gains attention; first within its community; then the world. What is a continued affirmation from such films is that Hip Hop, R&B, Soul and Reggae; and music of such genre have a moving affect on people of all colors. It’s not just a song; it’s a form of storytelling. With Favela Rising, it’s a "pied piper" affect.

And soon those that don’t want to follow have no choice but to follow. This film tells a story of war and then redirects the viewer to music and art. All of this could have blended better and not confused the audience into thinking this documentary is about the lives of people in the slums of Rio de Janeiro. In reality, it’s about the rise of hip-hop through a voice within a desperate community thirsty for attention to bring resolution to despair.

Triumph over tragedy—this is the film. It captures the motivation and focus of a group of people determined to not only make it but also more importantly demonstrate that there is more to life if you choose life.

[Film Directors: Jeff Zimbalist and Matt Mochary]

Copyright © 2006 Tonisha Johnson


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