Favela Beat is a documentary about the history of samba and its positive effects on communities in Rio de Janeiro.
Rowena Baines. Film “Favela Beat”. 2013
Set in in Cantagalo favela (shantytown), Favela Beat is a documentary about the history of samba and its positive effects on communities in Rio de Janeiro. The film aims to change people's negative perceptions of a favela and show how talented its residents are.
Favela Beat tells the story of an Afro-Brazilian family's commitment to preserve the samba tradition in their favela community. Cantagalo, once a violent slum, is being transformed by samba. The film’s main character, Maisa Nascimento, openly and honestly shares the struggles her children face in the favela. She explains how social projects are using samba music and dance to connect with at-risk youth and encourage them to take an alternative path to drug-trafficking.
The documentary explains how the once-shunned samba culture has come to represent Brazilian identity. Samba dance and music now attracts visitors from all over the world and provides employment to people in the favelas where it originated. Samba unites people of different ages, races, religions and classes, because they all share the motivation to celebrate.
The film features talented dancers from Cantagalo, such as Patrick Carvalho, Luiz Carlos Nascimento and members of Cia Dom. It also includes interviews with singer and composer Hildmar Diniz – known as “Monarco” – who is the honorary president of one of Rio de Janeiro’s biggest samba schools, and internationally acclaimed samba dancer and researcher Pablo Guerreiro Ferreira.
Favela Beat was directed and produced by New Zealander Rowena Baines. It grew from a short film she created in 2012, for her Masters in Science Communication qualification in documentary filmmaking at University of Otago.
Originally a dancer, Rowena has often spent time dancing in the communities around Rio and is well known in Brazil for her dance photography. Now a filmmaker, Rowena uses film as a catalyst for social change.
Favela Beat was initially launched as a short documentary but has now been re-cut as a full-length feature film. This feature is currently in the post-production phase, and a release date will be announced imminently.
Published 02 November 2023
Short launched in 2012. Feature length documentary in post-production.
Languages of delivery