Overnight on December 2/3, 1984, the factory owned by the U.S. multi-national Union Carbide Corp. (now Dow Chemical) accidentally leaked cyanide gas and killed thousands of mostly poor Indians in the city of Bhopal.
Thirty years later, thousands of tonnes of hazardous waste remain buried at the site, slowly poisoning the drinking water of more than 50,000 people and adversely affecting their health. Another 100,000 people exposed to the gas continue to suffer with a prevalence of cancer, blindness, respiratory problems, immune and neurological disorders. Read more
As international tourists descended on Rio’s iconic Maracanã Stadium to watch the final match of the 2014 FIFA World Cup in July, most Brazilians watched from television screens outside, while others took to the streets to exercise their constitutionally guaranteed right to protest. It is not mere opportunism that is bringing people to the streets, seeking to capitalize on all the attention garnered by the Cup – their grievances are very much tied to the international spectacle and the social legacy it will leave in this country. When the circus leaves town, it is Brazilians who will bear the brunt of the hangover, sifting through the trash to recover all the discarded beer cans after the party. It is very true that these events bring extraordinary benefits, but to whom are these benefits accrued? The benefits are privatized and profit an international elite – FIFA and the event sponsors – while the costs are socialized. FIFA will pay no taxes in Brazil and commit one of the greatest heists in Brazilian history upon its citizenry. Read more
From the first steps of the samba that were developed by escaped slaves to the hyper-politicized modern-day hip-hop movement, music has always played a fundamental role in liberatory struggles in Brazil.
While initially a form of protest music, samba was in many ways co-opted and commercialized, assisted by Carnaval, becoming a dominant form of mass culture. Unsurprisingly, many in the favelas feel samba no longer has the capacity to express their identity or frustrations. Perhaps inevitably, other musical styles more acutely focused on protest, anti-authoritarianism and anti-oppression have emerged to fill the gaps left by samba’s co-option. By the end of the 20th century, samba had taken a backseat as a powerful counter-narrative emerged in the form of hip-hop, telling stories of racism, violence, poverty and injustice.
Check out this excellent hip hop video made by a collective of young women in Brazil (Construção Coletiva) who poetically sum up the social injustices imposed by the World Cup.
For some, activism is a choice, but for many, it becomes an imperative when life circumstances thrust them against injustice, and the call to action a necessity. Such was the case for Liz Martin, whose nephew Joe was executed by Brazilian police on his 30th birthday when he was living as an expat in Rio de Janeiro. Liz’s personal story is harrowing and caused me to break down in tears when I first heard it. Read more
This past summer during the FIFA World Cup in Brazil, São Paulo graffiti artist Paulo Ito became famous when his graffiti mural depicting a starving child eating a soccer ball went viral online. The fame was long overdue, for Paulo Ito is an exceptionally gifted and prolific artist, this mural is but one of his many exceptional art works that can be seen throughout São Paulo’s urban landscape and beyond. Paulo’s work exemplifies the adage that “a picture is worth a thousand words”, as he so aptly captures a very deep social and political sub-text in his graffiti art. Read more
Long before I started this project, Witness.org became one of my favourite NGOs after I was introduced to their work by Peter Wintonick & Kat Cizek’s 2002 documentary Seeing is Believing. In fact, it was my early exposure to Witness’s unique methodology – providing human rights activists video equipment and training to document human rights abuses – that led to my own interest in participatory media. Read more
Yes it’s true, most people are surprised to hear this given I’ve spent the last four years of my life investigating how whole communities are being destroyed in Rio for these events. But at the end of the day, who doesn’t enjoy a good game of footie? I certainly do! I have drank the kool-aid (or Coca-Cola), I love FIFA’s “beautiful game”! I am inspired by the Olympic Charter and the values it espouses. And that’s precisely why I was so irate Read more
Here is a thorough article from RioOnWatch the community reporting outlet published by Rio-based NGO Catalytic Communities (Catcomm). CatComm was one of my first allies when I first started this project in 2010, and they have been working tirelessly to publish many of the untold stories in Rio around the same issues I am documenting in the film. The article describes the joint finding of Brazil’s “popular committees”, Read more
Human Rights for Sale: The combined budget for the 2014 World Cup and 2016 is $40 billion.
Chris Gaffney was the first activist I ever approached when starting this project in Rio back in 2010 when I recognized him from an Al-Jazeera segment I’d seen in my research. True to his style, Chris provides a very thorough overview of the socio-political backdrop in which our story unfolds. Read more
Jason O’Hara has been in Rio during the entire World Cup, documenting the demonstrations for his upcoming film State of Exception. On Sunday, just before the World Cup final between Argentina and Germany, Jason was Read more