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By Katya Gubarev, Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Possibly Rocinha’s first short film, written and performed by the children of the favela, was launched on YouTube on January 30, 2010. “Amor O Cima de Tudo” (“Love Above All”) is a 15-minute love story full of intrigue, action and monsters, that mixes the eclectic stories written by the ten students of a video class taught by the Good Hood News organization.

Favela children practicing their interview skills, photo courtesy of Good Hood News.
Children in Rocinha practicing their interview skills, photo provided by Good Hood News.

Ten-year-old Gabriel and Aline made their acting debut in the roles of Robert, a poor student who’s also a superhero, and Carolina, his wealthy classmate and the object of his affection. The script and most of the camera work were all done by the students themselves.

Good Hood News, spearheaded by an ex-MTV coordinator Samantha Marie “La Alta”, is a global, grassroots television network dedicated to promoting positive stories from the neighborhoods normally portrayed negatively in the media.

Marie is an American filmmaker and visual artist from New York who came to Brazil for the first time in 2009 as a volunteer. She now lives in Rocinha, working on her vision to change the perception that community members and the outside world have of the “ghetto” by focusing on the arts, social projects and other development efforts going on within one of Rio de Janeiro’s largest favelas.

These “good” news projects are delivered by the children and youth of Rocinha, empowering them to do something beneficial for the community. The video class is held on Fridays, and teaches the basics of film and video production, like screenwriting, camera operating, and interviewing.

“I’m curious about the reaction of the students when they see the finished product after the holidays,” says Marie, who edited the raw footage for the short film. “Then we will see if they also have interest in editing,” she said.

Favela children filming projects, photo courtesy of Good Hood News.
Children in Rocinha learning to shoot video, photo provided Good Hood News.

So far, the organization has produced three video interviews, all available on the Good Hood News website and YouTube. They illustrate the stories of the Graffiti artists Dentão and Tam, the Rocinha Surf School, and the Rocinha Crossfit gym.

Marie is beginning dialogues with a few other favelas in the city, and she wants to use the structure in Rio as a prototype for an international program, including the neighborhoods of Calcutta in India and South Bronx in the U.S.

In Rocinha, the Good Hood News is affiliated with the NGO “Instituto Dois Irmaos” (Two Brothers Foundation, i2i) that has been promoting international exchange, community service and education since 1999. “I am so fortunate to have such a great relationship with i2i,” affirms Marie, “they are doing amazing things here.”

She hopes to get her own space close to the institute to set up a more frequent class schedule without disrupting the work of the organization, and start soliciting video equipment needed for expansion of the program.

“I am very happy to witness the children creating their own footage,” comments Rogerio Rodrigues, the i2i volunteer coordinator, “and I hope that this new activity gives wings to their imagination, enhancing their lives.”

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