Marielle's sacrifices

Image: Elyeser Szturm

By Boaventura de Sousa Santos, Luis Lomenha e Scarlett Rocha*

Marielle's brand new sacrifice is the use of her name and her noble fight for media and commercial promotion purposes that, regardless of the intentions of those who promote her, objectively betray the symbols and goals of her fight.

Marielle Franco sacrificed her life in the fight against racism, sexism, social injustice and the capture of the State by organized crime. Her nobility and fighting courage impressed all who knew her, regardless of political views, and her barbaric murder shook the world. Sadly, this wasn't her last sacrifice. Shortly after her death, we witnessed the macabre spectacle of a criminal investigation that almost investigate, that almost knows who killed her and had her killed, who almost ready to formulate accusations and judge, but whose almost seems to never end. This has been a new sacrifice for Marielle.

And if that wasn't enough, another sacrifice seems to be underway. Marielle's brand new sacrifice is the use of her name and her noble struggle for media and commercial promotion purposes that, regardless of the intentions of those promoting her, objectively betray the symbols and goals of her struggle. Marielle thus runs the risk that another great revolutionary took before her, Che Guevara, whose sacrifice was trivialized in the decoration of t-shirts or in the name of tourist bars.

Last week, screenwriter and writer Antonia Pellegrino, known for her career dedicated to feminism and left-wing thinking, was involved in a strong controversy on social networks. Black militants and artists questioned the choice of filmmaker José Padilha to direct a series about the life of Marielle Franco produced by Pellegrino and contracted by TV Globo.

As we know, everything indicates that Marielle was murdered by the militias in Rio de Janeiro two years ago. Padilha is director of Elite squad, the film that glamorized the BOPE (Special Operations Battalion) considered the most lethal police in the world. The filmmaker also directed the series Mechanism from Netflix, which turned the political judge Sérgio Moro into a national hero and whom Padilha himself nicknamed “Samurai Ronin” in allusion to a fighter from feudal Japan who did not have a master.

Shortly after Moro accepted the position of Minister of Justice in the government of Jair Bolsonaro, Padilha regretted it and wrote an article declaring his regret. Apparently, the regret was so sincere and so impressed Antônia Pellegrino that it was enough for the left-wing screenwriter to overcome some embarrassment in joining a right-wing director in making the series about a fighter who sought to reinvent the left so that she not easily confused with the right.

Questioned about the absence of a black professional or a black professional in the direction, Antônia said that Brazilian structural racism prevented the birth of a Spike Lee or an Ava DuVernay, well-known black North American directors. The author of the series Tim Maia: it's worth what comes he went further by saying that Padilha and Rodrigo Teixeira, owner of the production company RT Features, are the only ones in Brazil capable of making the series about Marielle gain an international dimension.

At the same time, the director defended himself in an article published on March 10, 2020, in the newspaper Folha de São Paulo, (, writing that it was the hatred of a black man who murdered activist Malcom X, a speech similar to that of President Bolsonaro when he blames black people for slavery, stating that, in Africa, black people, in addition to having slaves, sold them to Europeans. The same type of reasoning will lead Padilha to think that, likewise, the main culprits for the death of a young black man every 23 minutes in Brazil are black police officers or drug dealers of the same race.

Fortunately, this was not Antônia's reasoning, for whom the “absence” of black filmmakers is to blame for structural racism in Brazil. But, unfortunately, at first, he did not draw the necessary conclusions from this reasoning. It was professor Silvio Almeida and filmmaker Sabrina Fidalgo, both black, who did it. Silvio Almeida stated in one of his many tweets: “By becoming aware of the structural dimension of racism, the responsibility of individuals and institutions increases and does not decrease. Now, each one will have to think about their role in the reproduction of a racist society”. In turn, Sabrina Fidalgo, in an even more forceful tone, stated: “The opportunism and greed in the race of “who takes the most” with the tragedy of the councilor from Rio reached its maximum level of cruelty; Marielle, in this whole story, is being executed for the second time”.

In view of this, we warmly welcome the most recent declaration of repentance by Antonia Pellegrino who, in her Facebook message on March 11, states: “After the initial shock, disappointment came. The disappointment in myself. How could I say such a stupid sentence? Today, I see that the answer is simple: like many progressive and anti-racist white people, I was sure that my intentions were so good that they would never be questioned in this context. Again, I apologize for the disastrous statement… This is a project that, from the very beginning, has been fundamentally committed to the fight for justice for Marielle Franco. It's been two years without an answer to the question: who had Marielle killed? And telling her saga, in the current situation, giving maximum visibility to the story of this Brazilian heroine and her brutal execution is a way to maintain the social appeal of the case. I understand and respect those who disagree, but this was my commitment to Marielle's family. As the executive producer and creator of Marielle's series, I would like to reiterate that our intention has always been to have a diverse team, with black people and women at the forefront of the creative process.”

One could not be more vehement in formulating a rebuttal of conscience. But the conclusions that flow from it are now so evident that Pellegrino will certainly not escape. We distinguish four main lessons.

The first lesson is about the rebound of conscience. In racist societies, repentance, however sincere, is always a second position. The first is dictated by racist common sense. These days, the worst racism is that of those who don't consider themselves racist. They accept the existence of racism as an inescapable fact for which society in the abstract is responsible and that, therefore, fighting against it is never a personal responsibility. Implicitly, it is admitted that, just as there are no black filmmakers today capable of an enterprise worthy of a vast audience dominated by white society, neither will there be any in fifty or a hundred years.

The second inference is that the supposed “absence” of black Brazilian filmmakers is the product of what one of us calls a “sociology of absences”. It is about the invisibility and concealment of black filmmakers who really exist and who resist in a struggle, so often frustrating, for an opportunity to show to wider audiences their long-demonstrated capabilities on smaller scales or in marginal contexts because marginalized by white society. . Popular audiovisual schools began in the outskirts of Brazil at the beginning of the 20st century. XNUMX years have passed and the professionals who are the result of these initiatives are already in the market making films and series, and winning national and international awards. It is racism that makes them invisible.

Incidentally, racism is not a monopoly of the major TV stations and streaming platforms, which do not have black people on their executive boards, do not hire black script and director professionals and also do not enter into contracts with black-owned production companies. Racism is also very present among small independent producers, people from the right and left who try at all costs to protect the little space they have. It is racism that explains the statistical data from ANCINE – Agência Nacional do Cinema in a study on “gender and race diversity in the audiovisual sector” released in 2016. Based on the 142 Brazilian feature films released commercially in theaters that year, the white men directed 75,4% of the features. White women direct 19,7% of films, while only 2,1% were directed by black men. No film in 2016 was directed or written by a black woman.

The third conclusion is that José Padilha should not direct the series about Marielle Franco. Regardless of his and Antonia Pellegrino's intentions, if he does, it will objectively constitute an offense to Marielle's memory. It will certainly constitute a humiliation for black filmmakers and screenwriters. They will once again see their stories told by white professionals, they will participate in movements and demonstrations that do not contemplate them, they will try to be part of business associations, individual associations and unions, without this being translated into the approval of their projects or the increase of their producers' resources. Their effort, their history, their lives, their commitment and dedication, instead of contributing to their visibility and promotion, will contribute to widen the abyss that separates them from white professionals in the Brazilian audiovisual sector.

But Padilha's direction will constitute even greater humiliation for the entire black Brazilian population - and let's not forget, the majority of the Brazilian population - who will once again see their story and their struggles told by whites, that is, by those who , if they do not actively participate in the oppression of black populations, they at least benefit from it. It will be another case of the history of the losers told by the winners of history.

The fourth conclusion, of a more political nature, is that, whenever they engage in objectively racist initiatives, left-wing activists contribute to deepening the common conviction among the black population that the left and the right share the same racist prejudice. Philosopher Sueli Carneiro asserts in a controversial way: “I, between left and right, continue to be black”. In the Brazilian peripheries, it is common to hear the following comment about the differences between left and right: “it changes who hits, not who gets hit”. And anyone who is surprised by the lack of attachment to democracy on the part of the black and poor population should ask if they realize that much of this population lives in a democratic society, but does not have the conditions to live democratically, that is, to feel the value of democracy in the skin of your daily life”.

When, after the terrorist attack on the Twin Towers in New York, BB King, the great black American blues singer, was asked what he thought of the fact that henceforth American society would have to live with the constant threat of terrorism, he replied with a truth of cutting lucidity: “but I, as a black man, have always lived under terror”.

*Boaventura de Sousa Santos he is director emeritus of the Center for Social Studies at the University of Coimbra.

* Luis Lomenha is a black film and television writer and director.

*Scarlett Rocha is a cultural producer and audiovisual director.

Article originally published on the website Other words.

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