May 3, 2009 / 1:20 PM / 9 years ago

Brazil films shown in NY examine slums, hunger

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Two documentaries set in Brazil that premiered last week at New York’s Tribeca film festival take a raw look at how destitute Brazilian families grapple with hardships including the clearest symptom of poverty — hunger.

“Garapa,” by award-winning Brazilian director Jose Padilha, follows three families and their malnourished children who drink garapa — a Brazilian-Portuguese term for a mix of water and sugar that eases hunger pangs.

Shot on grainy black and white film and with no effects, not even music, the film shows families stripped of bare essentials, Padilha said in an interview with Reuters.

“People watch the film and realize they never really knew what hunger means for the families who have to face it on a day-to-day basis,” said Padilha.

“It is a film about these specific families but because those conditions exist elsewhere in the world you get an idea about how hunger affects everyone,” he said.

According to the United Nations, more than 950 million people around the world suffer chronic hunger. That figure is expected to rise as the global financial crisis grinds on and commodity prices soar.

Padilha, 41, who lives in Rio de Janeiro and shot the film in Ceara state, said one of his motivations for making the film was that while the hunger problem grows, world leaders and the public fail to make it a priority.

“We know a lot about hunger, we know the facts and we know how much it costs to eradicate it,” he said, adding that cynical political calculations stand in the way of making it a priority.

“It’s not like world leaders don’t know about this,” he said. “But, you know, if you help poor kids in Africa those poor kids can’t vote in the next election in your rich country.”

Another documentary screened at Tribeca, “Only When I Dance,” centers on two black teenagers living in a Rio de Janeiro shantytown and their struggle to make it as ballet dancers on the world stage.

Director Beadie Finzi, who lives in London, said she sought to tell an uplifting story against a backdrop of difficulties faced by many working-class families in Brazil.

“The disparity and divisions within this wonderful country are epitomized by Rio with the most fantastically wealthy, educated and opulent rubbing up against some for the most dangerous, difficult and impoverished slums,” she said.

Finzi said she wanted to focus on the two dancers who “even in the midst of real economic and social adversity, inspire.”

“Garapa” is set to open in Brazil and is looking for distribution. “Only When I Dance” is in talks for a cinema release.

Editing by Michelle Nichols and Xavier Briand

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