Brazil films shown in NY examine slums, hunger


June 18, 2010 Updated May 3, 2009 at 9:11 AM EDT

* Tribeca documentaries focus on poor Brazilians

* Films aiming to raise awareness and inspire

By Christine Kearney

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Two documentaries set in Brazil
that premiered last week at New York's Tribeca film festival
take a raw look at how destitute Brazilian families grapple
with hardships including the clearest symptom of poverty --

"Garapa," by award-winning Brazilian director Jose Padilha,
follows three families and their malnourished children who
drink garapa -- a Brazilian-Portuguese term for a mix of water
and sugar that eases hunger pangs.

Shot on grainy black and white film and with no effects,
not even music, the film shows families stripped of bare
essentials, Padilha said in an interview with Reuters.

"People watch the film and realize they never really knew
what hunger means for the families who have to face it on a
day-to-day basis," said Padilha.

"It is a film about these specific families but because
those conditions exist elsewhere in the world you get an idea
about how hunger affects everyone," he said.

According to the United Nations, more than 950 million
people around the world suffer chronic hunger. That figure is
expected to rise as the global financial crisis grinds on and
commodity prices soar.

Padilha, 41, who lives in Rio de Janeiro and shot the film
in Ceara state, said one of his motivations for making the film
was that while the hunger problem grows, world leaders and the
public fail to make it a priority.

"We know a lot about hunger, we know the facts and we know
how much it costs to eradicate it," he said, adding that
cynical political calculations stand in the way of making it a

"It's not like world leaders don't know about this," he
said. "But, you know, if you help poor kids in Africa those
poor kids can't vote in the next election in your rich

Another documentary screened at Tribeca, "Only When I
Dance," centers on two black teenagers living in a Rio de
Janeiro shantytown and their struggle to make it as ballet
dancers on the world stage.

Director Beadie Finzi, who lives in London, said she sought
to tell an uplifting story against a backdrop of difficulties
faced by many working-class families in Brazil.

"The disparity and divisions within this wonderful country
are epitomized by Rio with the most fantastically wealthy,
educated and opulent rubbing up against some for the most
dangerous, difficult and impoverished slums," she said.

Finzi said she wanted to focus on the two dancers who "even
in the midst of real economic and social adversity, inspire."

"Garapa" is set to open in Brazil and is looking for
distribution. "Only When I Dance" is in talks for a cinema
(Editing by Michelle Nichols and Xavier Briand)

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