Inspiring docu “Favela Rising” traces the rehabilitation of a murder-ravaged Rio de Janeiro slum (the favela of the title) by the power of music. A former drug dealer and a community activist confront drug lords, corrupt local police and a trigger-happy militia with the beat of Afro-reggae. Extraordinary concert coverage vibrating with energy elevates the pic beyond the merely educational. Unfortunately, helmers Jeff Zimbalist and Matt Mochary (Tribeca’s New Documentary Director award recipients) eventually sidetrack the pic’s collective dynamics into a more banal one-man meller. Still, auds might buy the upbeat miracle coda to this real-life “City of God” thriller.
Filmmakers reveal cycles of violence and repression with chilling ease as armed bands roam the streets. But once the docu’s protagonist, Anderson Sa, channels his charismatic leadership into music, bloody police massacres give way to massive concerts, drums replacing the guns in kids’ hands. Zimbalist and Mochary succeed so well in capturing the social transformation of the favela, it seems a political betrayal when they resort to prolonged overlays of ominous music and slo-mo suspense to overdramatize Anderson’s final, personal brush with death.