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By Luiza Moscoso, Contributing Reporter

Victims of hunger are the focus of Padilha's new documentary, photo by Alexandre Lima.
Victims of hunger are the focus of Padilha's new documentary, photo by Alexandre Lima.

RIO DE JANEIRO – Three families struggling against starvation, two ballet dancers from a Carioca favela determined to succeed, the tough journey of a mother and a daughter in a big city and the KOGI Indians perception of the abstract world of meanings.

Such different topics are storylines of the four Brazilian movies showing at the 8th edition of the Tribeca Film Festival, which started in New York on April 22nd and will wrap next Sunday, May 3rd.

The festival was created in 2001, right after the 9/11 attacks, in an effort to restructure the neighborhood financially and culturally. Since then, over 15 Brazilian movies have been screened on the festival, amongst narrative and documentary features and shorts. In 2009, Tribeca festival’s audience will have the opportunity to watch two documentary features, one narrative short and one documentary short made in Brazil, all of them running for awards.

Director of “Tropa de Elite” (“Elite Squad”), winner of the Berlin’s Festival Golden Bear and featured in the Tribeca Festival in 2008, José Padilha brings his feature documentary “Garapa” (“Garap”) to this year’s edition. The movie examines the starvation issue by following three families from Brazil’s Northeast region, who struggle daily with hunger. The movie title comes from a mixture of water and sugar known as garapa often given to Brazilian children as a substitution to milk.

“Around 11 million people live permanently with lack of food in Brazil, in a situation in which they only eat on the days they have something to eat. Worldwide, 920 million people live in the same situation. If there’s hunger in the world it is because we want it. There’s no natural law that determines that people have to starve. This tragedy can be solved”, said Padilha to Efe Agency, during this year’s edition of Berlin’s Festival, where “Garapa” had its world premiere.

Actress Polly Marinho plays herself in Gandja Monteiro's short film, photo by Julia Equi.
Actress Polly Marinho plays herself in Gandja Monteiro's short film, photo by Julia Equi.

The other Brazilian film running for best feature documentary is “Only When I Dance”, a Brazil and UK co-production directed by the British Beadie Finzi. The movie follows two Brazilian teenagers from Carioca favelas determined to overcome all the obstacles to become professional ballet dancers.

Rio de Janeiro is also the setting of the short narrative film “Quase Todo Dia” (“Almost Everyday”). Raised in both Brazil and New York, director Gandja Monteiro blurs the line between narrative and documentary following one day in the life of Polly and her daughter, Agatha – mother and daughter in real life as well – as they travel from their home in the far neighborhood Recreio dos Bandeirantes to downtown Rio.

The short documentary “KOGI” completes the Brazilian participation in this year’s festival. Directed by visual artist Paula Gaitán, the experimental film deals with the KOGI Indians perception of two worlds, the perceptual and the sensory, divided by a great mirror. For the KOGI, the abstract world of meanings is called “aluna” and is responsible to give meaning to the destiny of life.

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