Turning from cutting-edge sexual politics to urban social activism, Monika Treut profiles Rio de Janeiro-based human rights crusader Yvonne Bezerra de Mello in upbeat, inspirational docu “Warrior of Light.” Universally embraceable subject matter, coupled with helmer’s sterling rep as benevolent booster of humanistic pioneers, ensures strong fest demand, good arthouse biz and a healthy life in ancillary.
In 1993, eight young street urchins were killed by police in front of a Rio de Janeiro church. Hearing this, socialite de Mello scaled back her life of leisure and intensified “Projeto Uere” (called “Children of Light” in English), which aggressively approaches the critical problem of abandoned children by establishing safe houses in city’s worst slums. From Thiago, a young boy with AIDS, to Vanessa, who’s already decided not to have children, moppets under program’s care are shown with de Mello, who takes a radically hands-on approach to treatment and counsel. Tech credits are pro, with longtime d.p. and Hyena Films shingle co-founder Elfi Mikesch’s instinctive camerawork a major plus. Pic’s working title was “The Angel of Rio,” which is more evocative of de Mello’s saintly efforts in the face of dispiriting odds.