Countries once forced together by colonialism and the slave trade, now find connections in cultural entrepreneurship and the Portuguese language.
Small independent film-makers have a role in promoting African and Brazilian culture for their contemporary value, not as tourist clichés.
Mario Patrocinio and his brother Pedro’s first film was Complexo do Alemao, a documentary about life inside a favela in Rio de Janeiro.
Its hallmark was to show the lives of people living there, in their own terms in a place that is often reduced by the media to a drug-ridden ghetto and nothing else.
Their second film I Love Kuduro, was filmed in the Angolan capital Luanda, and continues this approach of rejecting stereotypes.
Since its premiere at the Rio de Janeiro International Film Festival, in Brazil, I Love Kuduro has been shown at the Festval Internacional de Cine en Guadalajara (Mexico), the most prestigious film festival in Latin America, and HotDocs International Documentary Festival (Canada), the biggest documentary festival in North America. It won the award for Best Cinematography in a Documentary at Cineport – the Portuguese Film Festival in Brazil, and has been seen in Kenya, the US, Spain, Germany, UK, South Africa, Cape Verde and, of course, Angola and Portugal.
As director Mario Patrocinio says: ‘The general public was unaware of the kuduro phenomenon and its importance in Angola. The power and reach of the movement were surprising.’
Since making Kuduro he has become interested in surfing as another cultural phenomenon which is popular in several continents. He talked to The Prisma about his belief in the power of culture to bring people together.
Angola is very attractive for media professionals due to the creative freedom it allows and the dynamic climate of investment, in comparison Portugal is stagnant.
Portugal is going through a period of economic recovery, so investments in this area are sparse.
We are a country with excellent professionals but most film producers have old-fashioned attitudes, and are still focused on the Portuguese market.
This is a strategic mistake because our country has the value and quality to produce for the whole world. Portugal has great infrastructures, good professionals, is easily accessible and has an incredible variety of landscapes and a magnificent weather. Therefore, it has been the stage of numerous international productions, but essentially in the servicing area instead of being an active country in the creative area.
But fortunately, times are changing, and our company, BRO, and other production companies are working in Portugal and abroad.
Angola is growing at a brutal pace, creating the infrastructures required to be a continent leader in Africa. There’s a political and corporate will, and the vision to take this path.
They’re producing films that are becoming recognised abroad, and since Portugal has more professionals than the market can absorb, Angola has become a destination for the audiovisual production sector. In collaboration with Angolan professionals, a new film production hub is emerging.
I’m a firm believer in the circulation and union between Portuguese-speaking countries. Language brings us together, but there’s also a cultural understanding. I believe in a natural and mutual influence between people, a world of sharing, not barriers, where we can put our heads together to find solutions to live in harmony, sustainably, and in mutual respect.
How did people relate to Kuduro, and to the film in London?
It was a special moment; the audience was very interested in the subject and the movie, and very enthusiastic. There were people from very different places, and through the Q&A session we were able to exchange great ideas and learn about each other’s options and paths.
Do you see the connection Angola-Brazil growing into a wider cultural exchange?
That flow between the two countries will increase, but for me, the connection and development will be much more comprehensive. Besides the cultural exchanges between Angola and Brazil, I believe in the synergies between all Portuguese-speaking countries.
The more I travel, the more I’m sure we have much to learn from each other, and that sharing of knowledge, besides helping us to better understand our common past, will help us to project a new world.
What are you working on now?
2014 was a very positive year for BRO, and we made several surfing films, and won awards. With Mission Papoa (http://vimeo.com/85100392) , a film project I directed with my brother, Pedro, we won the Best Short Film Award at MADSWELL – Madeira Island Surf Film Festival and the Best National Short Film Production Awardat SAL- Surf At Lisbon Film Fest. This short film was shot during a violent storm, Hercules. It was a real challenge.
We also produced Grandpa (http://vimeo.com/101584074), a one minute film directed by André Marques to celebrate Grandparents Day, which won prizes at Filminute (2014), the most important one minute short film festival in the world.
Another project we had a lot of fun with is The McNamara Surf Trip, a documentary web series in seven episodes that follows famous surfer Garrett Mc Namara around different Portuguese regions and was promoted by the Portuguese Tourism Office.
We’re very excited about our new film O Anjo Surfista (The Surfing Angel).
It’s a documentary about Guido Schaffer, a young Brazilian surfer and doctor who died surfing in 2009, just days before being ordained a priest. Now that the Vatican has opened the beatification process of Guido Schaffer, it’s possible that he’ll become the first surfing Saint. I have several other ongoing projects, but the one I’m the most excited about right now is my first fiction feature film, an adaptation of As mulheres do meu pai (My father’s girlfriends), a book by Angolan writer José Eduardo Agualusa.
I’ve been reading an interview with the director of a new film about children working on rubbish tips in Brazil, Trash. He remarks that his film was taken as a social documentary in Rome where it won a prize, but in Brazil it was seen as a comedy.
Does this reflect the different ways that Europeans and people in developing countries view poverty?
People’s knowledge of a subject changes from continent to continent, and country to country.
While we were making I Love Kuduro I felt there’s a stereotypical image of Africa in the West, which connects the continent to poverty, war, traditional living, or wildlife and nature.
The fact that we made a movie portraying a different reality, a contemporary cultural phenomenon where creativity and rhythm stand out, catches people by surprise.
Many ask themselves “why wasn’t I aware of this?” Perhaps with this glimpse, we can contribute to the dissemination of this new Africa, full of creative young people with a lot to give to the world through music, painting and plastic or performing arts.