Favela Rising

Brazil/United States

Directors: Jeff Zimbalist, Matt Mochary
Topic: Documents and celebrates work of Anderson Sa, a former drug trafficker, who uses music to unite the people of his rundown favela (Portuguese for “squatter settlement”) in Rio de Janeiro
Financing: Self-financed by the co-directors until it screened at Tribeca; afterward, financing was provided by ThinkFilm, HBO, Sidetrack Films and Voy Pictures
Budget: The directors won’t reveal an exact budget, but allow that it was less than $800,000.
Shooting format: 16 mm, 24p and digital video; Some footage was shot by children of the favela, who used a DV camera lent to them by the filmmakers. “We were astonished that they had unbelievable access to scenes of violence,” says Zimbalist.
Why it stands out: Sa’s way of using music as a positive force against bloodshed and corruption comes across as nothing short of revolutionary. The viewer is left feeling that the musical ideology could be used to heal broken communities all over the globe.
Memorable scene: In a horrific turn of events, Sa is paralyzed from the neck down in a surfing accident. Miraculously, Sa recovers. He’s about to leave the hospital in a wheelchair when a friend teases him, saying, “You wanna be cool about it and walk out like you’re a miracle?” Smiling, Sa responds, “I want to be a miracle,” then stands up and walks out of the hospital.
On making the film: “Because the media doesn’t go into the favelas, they don’t write stories representing the favela’s voice,” says Zimbalist. “The stories that reach the outside world are all violence and conflict. But less than 1% of the favela’s population is involved in violence. When you’re inside, you feel the other 99%: peace-loving, hardworking people. It’s so important to show the outside world some of the other stories.”