Mandela inspires Brazil’s favela protesters

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

A film about evictions in South Africa will be screened in favelas across Rio de Janeiro next week to mobilise working class Brazilians into action against forced removals.

Screenings of the award-winning documentary film Dear Mandela will start on Monday and run until Saturday. Its South African director Dara Kell and housing rights activists S’bu Zikode and Bandile Mdlalose from Durban will interact with locals after each screening.

Kell is New York-based and said the screenings were planned to “educate young favela residents about their rights and facilitate the sharing of successful strategies for resisting eviction”.

Organisers also aimed to “connect slum residents to pro bono lawyers, journalists and international networks of solidarity,” she said.

“We are connecting those at risk of forced eviction around the globe, and strengthening social movements working toward the right to adequate housing and dignity for all,” said Kell.

“We believe that screening Dear Mandela with audiences in Brazil will be deeply inspirational to residents facing forced eviction.”

Dear Mandela is Kell’s first documentary feature film and follows activists from Abahlali baseMjondolo, or Residents of the Shacks, and their work to resist forced evictions in various parts of South Africa.

“Meeting the young leaders who became the stars of the film, I saw that they embodied Nelson Mandela’s pragmatic idealism, his courage and his humility. I witnessed the trauma caused by unlawful evictions of shack dwellers as well as the courageous resistance of evictions,” said Kell of the film.

“This film is a testament to the hope that still survives among those whose spirits could otherwise have been broken… Making this film is an attempt to understand parts of my country that were hidden to me as a young white girl growing up in a segregated suburb.”

Rio de Janeiro resident Kalinca Copello is a Brazilian researcher organising the local screenings.

“We want evictions that South Africans experienced to start a debate and mobilise people. We have invited activists and lawyers to the debates about human rights violations and access to the city,” said Copello.

“We are not telling people to resist evictions. We want to inform them. In our experience, if you simply follow what the government wants you do then you get a bad deal.”

She said countless Brazilians have already been evicted from Rio’s inner-city favelas.

“If you look around, you will see that favelas are close to the city. In some cases, people have been moved from prime property in the city,” said Copello.

“A lot of people who have been evicted are moved from being closer to the city to areas on the outskirts of the city. They have to then spend hours to travel to the city and some of them are employed.”

Dear Mandela has screened in 35 countries and has been translated into 10 languages. It won the Best South African Documentary award at a recent edition of the Durban International Film Festival. It also won the Grand Jury Prize at the Brooklyn Film Festival in New York.

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About Yazeed Kamaldien

Self-employed journalist and photographer from South Africa.

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