By Russell Slater, Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – O Samba Que Mora Em Mim (The Samba Within Me) is a film about the Mangueira Samba school. Except it isn’t. It’s really about the Mangueira neighborhood and its residents, larger than life characters who love Samba, and have therefore played a pivotal role in Mangueira’s standing as one of the top Samba schools in Rio.

Samba drummer from Mangueira
Samba drummer from Mangueira, still image from the film O Samba Que Mora Em Mim.

One only needs to watch O Samba Que Mora Em Mim for five minutes to see that this neighborhood is a place full of rich, glowing life, and that Carnival wouldn’t exist without communities like Mangueira. Furthermore, that by the city only ever promoting its technicolor, Sambódromo-based spectacle it’s missing the personal stories that make the spectacle happen in the first place.

This is where O Samba… comes in. Georgia Guerra-Peixe, in her first film, takes the viewer on a journey through Mangueira from the bottom of the hill, on which it’s built, to the top. The audience gets to meet great characters such as Vó Luciola, the fragile old lady who loves Samba but can’t stand the noise and confusion of Carnival itself.

At times the film’s Samba soundtrack acts as a backdrop. Most of the time it’s not needed. Mestre Taranta, the leader of the Mangueira Samba school, is all that is needed. His vocal imitation of a full Samba band puts Hip-Hop beat-boxers to shame.

The film is a personalized portrait of the Mangueira neighborhood by the director. Key to this personal element is the narration by Guerra-Peixe at the beginning of the film as she describes what Samba and Mangueira means to her, before the camera begins its journey.

Documentary filming in the favela
Documentary filming in the favela, photo provided by O Samba Que Mora Em Mim.

Although this element of the film was not always present. The director states that: “I was almost done when the writer Ticha Godoy told me that something was missing that would tell the viewer why I made this movie.”

Guerra-Peixe continues “And I sent her texts I had written early in the project. A few days later she called me saying: “´I found what I was looking for. You have to narrate this text at the beginning. You have to put yourself in the film.´”

She took some convincing; “at first I froze in fear… but she [Ticha Godoy] was right. I’m not on the scene, but my presence, although mild, is what gives the tone of the film.”

The entire documentary takes place pre-Carnival, making O Samba… the perfect film to watch now. O Samba Que Mora Em Mim is currently showing at Unibanco Arteplex Cinema in Botafogo.


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