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Favela Rising

Year: 2005
Production Co: Sidetrack Films
Director: Matt Mochary/Jeff Zimablist
Audiences got a glimpse of the flipside of life in Rio de Janeiro in 2003's City of God. Favela Rising will convince you it was no fiction. On the other side of the postcard from the beaches of Impanema, the sex and spectacle of the Mardi Gra parades and the statue of Christ overlooking one of the world's most picturesque harbours lies another Rio.

It's one where shanty towns of corrugated iron stretch over the hills to the valleys beyond, where nothing but the stink of overcrowding and poverty and the sound of gunfire rises.

Drug gangs rule in this world, often with police complicity and usually the victim of horrendous brutality. After harassment by a particular officer, a disgruntled drug lord had him and three fellow officers gunned down in a drive by in Vigario Genal, the most notorious slum in the area. In retaliation, police moved in and massacred over 90 people with impunity, a practice that continues to this day.

After losing family and friends to the drug wars, Anderson Sa decided to do something about it, starting the Afro Reggae movement, a band with a message of change. Started in 1993 as a five or six piece percussion band performing a blend of reggae and hip hop, Afro Reggae grew. In 2004 it had nearly 2,000 members. Minions of the drug lords in the favela (suburb) had dwindled to a trickle. The drug lords themselves became fans, friends and helpers, and the movement enjoyed an uneasy truce with them, negotiating the prickly politics of life in the slums.

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