Favela Rising Review

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The ghettos of Brazil are desperate and crime ridden. Amazingly, former drug dealer Anderson Sa has managed to turn his back on crime, and in the process created a new musical sound - AfroReggae. His epiphany came at a high price - the death of his brother, but now thousands use this form of expression as a means of escaping poverty.


Although dramas like City of God have intimated that the youth of Brazil’s shanty towns are trapped in a downward spiral, this well-intentioned documentary picks out the glimmer of hope galvanising those who were once convinced that crime was their only option. Bearing faint echoes of David LaChapelle’s Rize, Jeff Zimbalist and Matt Mochary’s tale of transition relates how one-time pusher Anderson Sá was inspired by the death of his brother to provide the kids of Rio’s Vigário Geral district with a purpose, to deflect them away from drugs and guns.

However, in latterly focusing solely on Sá (whose recovery from a surfing accident is presented as quasi-miraculous), the directors lose sight of the wider AfroReggae movement’s burgeoning impact on the city’s favelas, which is actually the more truly inspirational story.

An uplifting story that's well worth telling, but the directors rather lose sight of the wider sociological ramifications to iconise a figurehead whose courage is couched in almost miraculous terms.