September 09, 2022
If the narrative always comes from the north, we have to give some reply from the south
The voice of Sèdjro Zitti, interviewed by Sara Manisera, FADA Collective
FavelAcademy is a basic film script course project for residents of the periphery in Rio de Janeiro and other Brazilian cities. The aim of FavelAcademy is to train, to recognize new voices and storytellers and to subvert the logic of access to the resources needed to enter the audiovisual industry.
Brazil, the last country to abolish slavery in the Americas, has still wounds opened by the European colonization. Lack of basic services, such as housing, sanitation, education, often affect the descendants of the enslaved. But not only. Lack of access to resources is also present in the cultural world. In Brazil, the favela has always been the setting for films, series and TV soap operas but its stories are told by the same elite that dominates the audiovisual in the country, usually wealthy and white men.
Favela Academy wants to break this vicious circle, open up new spaces and give the Favela inhabitants the tools to write their own stories.
Voice Over Foundation has chosen to support Favela Academy on this journey, in partnership with Instituto Guetto, from an idea of the director Leo Da Pressa.
Interview with Sèdjro Zitti, FavelAcademy trainee and aspiring director.
Q: Could you introduce yourself? Who are you and what do you do?
A: I'm Sèdjro Zitti, I'm from Benin, west Africa. I've been living in Brazil for five months but I used to live and study here for almost 5 years. I graduated in International Relations in Rio de Janeiro and then I came back to Benin to work as executive administrator. Recently I came back here to Brazil but I'm still working as an executive administrator. When I heard of the opportunity to do a workshop with FavelAcademy, I jumped into it. I live in the favela Complexo do Alemão in Rio de Janeiro and I thought it was a great opportunity for me to change my career because I've always been interested in films and culture.
Q: Could you please tell us more about your passion in films and culture? And what do you expect from FavelAcademy?
A: I love images, good movies and stories but I never had the chance to get into it, to explore more my passion. So I hope to get some techniques to become a good script writer. I hope to be able to transform into words my ideas of change. We are living in a country, in a society which is not fair and I hope to give my contribution to make a change. And to be able to make a change through the cinema, I have to get some skills, learn some techniques, and learn how to write a good script.
Q: Why do you think this project is important for the favelas?
A: I don't think this project is important only for favelas. I'm from Africa, from Benin, and we are used to similar kind of stereotypes that I have found here. It doesn't matter if you are in Brazil, Benin, Togo, Nigeria or France. When you talk about South and North, you can find patterns of stereotypes that can link all those places without being specific to one. I think FavelAcademy is important also for the people who will get another view of the global South: favelados, african, indigenous people. Brazil has so much in common with Africa but when it comes to know more about Africa, few people know that Africa is a continent with many languages and dialects. So many Brazilians try to defend their African roots without knowing it. But how can you talk about something that you don't know deeply? I think that it's also important to change the narrative in the cinema because cinema is one of the biggest lobbies in the world. Cinema gives narrative, cinema educates people. If the narrative always comes from the North, we have to give some reply from the South to be able to create a counterpart, and to be the protagonists of ourselves.
Q: Which kind of narrative would you like to explore?
A: I'm thinking about stories that link Africa and Brazil and the global North. How does it work? I would like to show Africa in a way that usually is not portrayed: the emotional one, the relation between parents and children who emigrated, the education in Africa. I think this is a subject never explored in the global North. I would like to show how rich Africa is in terms of culture, values, emotions, education, respect of nature and the way people think. I want to show the dignity of people. I would like to explore the deep relationship that some african people have with nature and connect it with people who live in Brazil, with the native people. How they understand life, how they are in relation with nature and their motherland.
Q: How do you think FavelAcademy can help you?
A: I hope to learn more about script writing but also on production, direction and all the phases to produce a movie. In the future, I would like to bring these skills back to Benin, to be able to encourage young people to express themselves. If you give some skills, you can neutralize the power and you can transmit people the capacity to express themselves. If you can express yourself, you can give a perspective of a reality that you really know, which is not dropped from above, filled with stereotypes.