Filmed over 5 years, More Earth Will Fall is a feature length documentary that cuts through the sensationalism of guns, drugs and gangs in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro to tell the intimate story of one family’s struggle to realise a simple dream. The film is set against the backdrop of an historical civil project, the Brazilian government’s professed attempt to finally integrate the favelas into mainstream society in the run up to the World Cup of 2014 and the 2016 Olympic Games.
The centrepiece of a project to give genuine voice to the favela community of Rocinha at this critical time, More Earth Will Fall invites its audience into the lives of its characters to experience their hopes and their challenges.
In 2009, while running the film production and youth media training company Hi8us South, I was approached by a former trainee, then staff member, Lee McKarkiel, and his friend Sam Liebmann, who was a client youth mentor on Favela to the World, the practice sharing project that I produced with Brazil’s AfroReggae between 2007 and 2008. Both young men were starting what have since become successful careers as professional filmmakers. They wanted to travel to Rio de Janeiro to make a feature length documentary about favela life that would differ from everything that has come from Western filmmakers before.
My journey collaborating with this team began with establishing a crowd funding campaign to pay for their first visit to the favela of Rocinha in 2010. They were to begin filming while running workshops to train members of the community to document their day-to-day lives on The Hill. The trip was financed and donations of equipment were secured. Hi8us also donated equipment. I connected Sam and Lee with local fixer (Damian Platt) and Cirque du Soleil designer Gringo Cardia’s media school Spectaculu, whose role would be to continue to provide support to the local community filmmakers during the Londoners’ absence.
In November 2011, during the team’s second visit, pacification came to Rocinha with the arrival of the heavily armed UPP. The film was to take a new turn dealing with the complexity of the interplay between exclusion, survival and hope.
After building their hut on the precarious hillside of Brazil’s biggest favela, Vito and Rosangela await their relocation to a safer home away from the violence of a decades-long war. But as the World Cup and Olympics draw closer bringing hope for change, a tragedy alters their lives forever.
Seven years on, several visits to Rocinha and terabytes of footage later, the team became immersed in a deeply personal and complex story played out at the centre of an epic regeneration project and the most controversial build up to a world sporting event since the 1936 Olympics. The result is an intimate emotional portrait of a family living in the heart of one of Rio’s most conflict-ridden favelas.
The completed film will launch a bigger project, Stories From The Hill, which will include a second feature length documentary exploring the contextual issues and events playing out in Rio’s favelas as experienced by the wider community on the hilltop of Rocinha. An online platform will feature short films made by young people in Rocinha and give access to their raw footage. Supporting educational resources will be produced for use in schools and in non-formal learning contexts. The team will also be available to deliver workshops and masterclasses in advocacy filmmaking.
Distribution of More Earth Will Fall will form an integral part of our outreach and impact programme giving voice to the community of Rocinha while supporting young people to explore common concerns and learn about advocacy filmmaking.
Visit the project website at storiesfromthehill.net