Brazil, like many of its Latin American neighbours, is one of the richest countries in the world today and has paid off their debt to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) (much to the IMF’s disappointment). Despite this apparent national wealth, the gap between the rich and poor
Brazil, like many of its Latin American neighbours, is one of the richest countries in the world today and has paid off their debt to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) (much to the IMF’s disappointment). Despite this apparent national wealth, the gap between the rich and poor is massive and the favelas of Rio are as famous as its beaches and carnival. Brazilian filmmaker Jose Padilha’s award-winning film Elite Squad may have been fiction, but the director’s background in documentaries meant that there was plenty of reality in the story.
The favelas are the slums (for want of a better word) that dominate the hills around Rio and as happens in so many countries, the homes of the very poor are often immediately adjacent to those of the very rich. Drugs and crime mean that the lives of the young people living there are often cut short, but some of them have found an escape on the nearby beaches by adopting surfing as a lifestyle. The irony that surfing is seen as a positive alternative is not lost, because in lots of Western countries surfing wasn’t always seen as respectable choice.
Rio Breaks is a documentary that follows two young boys from the favela who have chosen the surfing lifestyle as a way of escaping the violence that has already killed members of their families. They are supported by the local surf community of the Favela Surf Club, which supplies kids with boards and mentoring. Just as many of Brazil’s poor look to football as their way to escape, surfing is offering a similar opportunity, except there is not as much money available, but it is a healthy lifestyle free from the corruption of the soccer world.
Although surfing is at the heart of the film, it is not your typical “surf porn” movie. In fact, the waves are decidedly average, but it is a very positive portrayal of a lifestyle that most of the world’s population will never really understand.