By Juliana Tafur, Contributing Reporter

Luci Alcântara, Brazilian documentary filmmaker, Photo by Juliana Tafur.
Luci Alcântara, Brazilian documentary filmmaker, photo by Manuela Galindo.

RIO DE JANEIRO – Recife documentary filmmaker Luci Alcântara is busy promoting her latest film, “Generation 65: All of that stuff”. The problem is that this film about a generation of writers that emerged in the 1960s and made their mark on Pernambuco’s cultural scene is not what the world expects of a Brazilian production.

“They’re not interested,” says Alcântara, “all they want is sex, violence or tragedy. I’ve received many responses from film festivals saying that my documentary is too intellectual.”

Frustrated, she proceeds to explain how she’s seen this trend during her 20 years working locally with production companies from abroad: “They’re mostly interested in documentaries on prostitute girls and favela boys.”

Once, Alcântara received a call from a Canadian production company wanting to come to Brazil to shoot a film on the butts of Brazilian women. Recalling every detail of that phone conversation, she expands: “I was told the production schedule would involve shooting butts on the beach, butts at nightclubs, lots of butts.” Alcântara declined the offer and explained she didn’t want her name associated with such a program.

From experience, she knows to avoid productions of this sort. A couple years earlier another foreign company lied to her by saying they were coming to Brazil to shoot a program about exotic places in Bahia.

It was too late when Alcântara found out that “exotic” was a code word for “erotic”. In reality, the show was about a couple whose sexual life was rekindled after visiting the beaches of Salvador. “It was as if they got off the plane and became hot and horny.”

The Recife producer was even asked to be part of a scene where the couple had sex on the beach in the early morning hours. “It gave you the idea that sex is so implicit in Brazilian culture that foreign couples go crazy and cannot resist.”

On moral grounds, Alcântara refused to participate in the shoot. Plus, she was afraid to be caught by police as the only Brazilian in the crew. “I hated working for them.”

Still, the 49-year-old finds it even more frustrating that when documentaries aren’t about sex, they’re about violence or tragedy: “The reality is one thing but they want to transform it by emphasizing negative aspects. They don’t want to show what’s positive.”

After working on a variety of programs of this nature, the producer is fed up, “I got tired of wasting my time with commercial productions.” she says.

Like Alcântara, other local producers are tired of feeding the international public with programs on big booties and violent-ridden neighborhoods. And though many are choosing to focus on educational and cultural programming, well-known films such as “City of God” and “Elite Troops” serve to show that violence is still a prerequisite when it comes to selling Brazilian productions abroad.

Correction: June 25th, 2009
This article was first published on June 24th and credited Juliana Tafur as the photographer, the photo was taken by Manuela Galindo.


  1. interesting story and very true about this. I live in favela of Rocinha and a woman fron Australia make contact with me about making documentry in my home of Rocinha. She ask me about making film of trafickers. I tell her no, enough about negatives the films show about our neghborhoods..enough! I tell her if she film trafickers she risk her life and my too..

    I only want to help filmakers who want make film about the good positive things people are doing in favelas. The world need to know that favelas are so much more then drugs and misery. We have majority very nice people here!


  2. Hi.
    I agree with Zezinho. There are a lot of things in Rio de Janeiro. People araund word needs to know good things about our city. In favelas or not beaultiful people live and work here day by day. We need to talk about our wins. This is important for us.


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