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Giving a Voice—and a Face—to Rio’s Poorest

Brazilian Jewish filmmaker Daniela Broitman set out to give voice to poor Brazilians struggling against drug wars, violence, and challenges from the Brazilian government, its police force, and global corporations. Her 70-minute documentary, “Voices from the Edge—The Favela Goes to the World Social Forum” (made with Fernando Sails), introduces us to community leaders from the slums of Rio de Janeiro. With Broitman toting video camera, 23 of them embarked upon their first-ever journey—by bus to the third annual World Social Forum (WSF) in Porto Alegre, Brazil.

The World Social Forum, Broitman told Lilith recently, is “an alternative to the World Economic Forum that occurs annually in Davos, Switzerland. Yet the voices of the poorest are rarely heard at this important meeting, and thus underrepresented.” Broitman’s vision stretches beyond 70 minutes of film footage, however. “This is not just a film; this is a social project I’m doing.”

Where did a Jewish girl from a privileged background get her passion about the Rio slum-dwellers? Born in the largest city in Brazil, Sao Paolo, Broitman recalls Jewish culture serving as an integral part of her upbringing. Broitman’s father came to Brazil at age seven with his parents, survivors of the Holocaust. Her Jewish Romanian grandparents, directly upon marriage, were sent to concentration camp—together. Says Broitman, “They used to say that their honeymoon was spent in the concentration camps.”

Speaking of herself and a good friend, she explains, “We’re different than the average Jewish woman in Brazil. I think a lot of Jewish women are really concerned about family and marriage, not as much about their careers. They’re glad enough to find a man with a good job who can support them in our [difficult] economy. Of course, they would prefer Jewish men, but anyone who has a stable income is good.”

Her next big project? Broitman is toying with the idea of a documentary on her grandparents’ Holocaust experience and immersion into Brazilian culture.