My earliest memories of contact with the latent, however veiled, prejudice in Brazil have haunted me throughout my life, both as a citizen and as a filmmaker.
To date, I still feel the indignation and the strangeness – just like when I was a kid at public school during part of my childhood – towards the discrimination against my classmates because of their background or the color of their skin. Sometimes it was very subtle, but other times really blatant.
Trying to understand my country, the formation of the Brazilian people and the reasons of the abyss of opportunity between the rich and the poor, I ventured into multiple inventories.
I have directed some series and movies on our music, dance, religion, language, the indigenous universe, and also the Amazon rain forest.
During this trajectory of more than 20 years of research, I have found many answers. However, the behavior of the elites towards childhood poverty and the ingrained racism in our daily life, in an as natural as harmful way, were still in my extensive list of research. During the production of another series dedicated to studying the history of Brazil, I came across the work of the historian Sidney Aguilar.
When I saw a picture of the bricks engraved with the swastika, I felt the same discomfort I used to feel whenever I witnessed prejudice at school.
I was really excited – and bewildered, of course – to realize that right there, behind those bricks, I could find the answers for many of my questions.
Understanding the situation to which the orphan boys were subjected, as well as the trivialization of prejudice, which was born of a perverse state policy; I came to the conclusion that, amidst those stories of abandonment, abuse, devaluation of childhood, and violations towards the life of citizens who should be under the careful tutelage of the state, there was a chance to finally talk about something that had marked me forever: Brazilian racism.
This peculiar form of racism that took shape in Brazil thanks to our sweet-talking cordiality is, however, inconsistent with the miscegenation that gives rise to our population.
I was already fascinated by the story and by the chance to make a film that would help Brazilians to better understand themselves. Moreover, once inside the project and already participating in the investigations, we found another survivor, Mr. Argemiro. His equally fascinating life story is a real metaphor of how Brazil sweeps its painful memories under the rug.
I had a long talk with Mr. aloísio and could feel his outrage and resentment – another type of impact generated by the experience on Cruzeiro do Sul farm.
José Alves de Almeida, known as 2, unfortunately did not survive to tell his story. This one however, would be worthy of a novel.
Until his death, he never got disconnected from the family that took him to Campina do Monte Alegre, equally nurturing feelings of love and hatred. At that moment, I realized that I was dealing with much more than I could ever imagine and the best was that I had witnesses marked by history right there in my hands.
I had a character driven film which would help me deal with universal issues.