one of things i'm hoping for in 2011 is more free expression. 2010 has been a good year personally for starting to get stuff out on the street and into the weird bloggy, youtube-y ether, but there's a whole lot i've seen and read about lately that has me screaming at the top of my lungs...
after the über-publicized police and army invasions of the complexo do alemão, a group of favelas in rio's north zone which i conspicuously failed to post anything about (there's always next year, right), local cops took things one step further and rounded up 4 funkeiros (singers of funk music, a local subgenre of hip-hop, which m.i.a borrows heavily) for "inciting violence" by singing songs that supposedly glorify drug gangs. mc smith, mc tikão, mc max and mc frank point out that they're singing about the reality of their communities, but the police chief accuses them of working to spread violence throughout rio, and make themselves rich in the process...they're trying to break into the mainstream, she says, by relying on funk's pirate economy. she makes a lot of other arguments that don't make a lot of sense, either. there's a video here, shot by my friend ludmila curi for rio's main paper, just after they were arrested. it's in portuguese, but worth checking out just for the visuals, which tell a lot of the story - it's a great video, especially considering that it was shot for a paper that tends to support any and all police repression.
ludmila previously made a short documentary about mc smith, one of the funkeiros arrested, and his relationship to music and his community. this one has subtitles - you can find it (and vote for it) by going here and clicking on "grosso calibre":
meanwhile, in são paulo, a videographer who works with the legendary (and infamous) teatro oficina company has (at least temporarily) lost custody of her 3-year-old son while a family court judge tries to determine whether or not oficina's work constitutes pornography.
teatro oficina is known for outlandish, participatory, sexually charged work. they just toured brasil presenting 4 stadium theatre plays for audiences of 2000 people on a giant grant from the national ministry of culture.
it's not really material for 3-year-olds, but the idea that being backstage with actors while his mom was working would constitute child pornography is inherently ludicrous. given that the work is explicitly endorsed and paid for by the brasilian government should be enough to earn it the legal status of High Art. anyway, rio and são paulo - like any other big city - are a whole lot of questionable parenting decisions that nobody's making a fuss about, and rightfully show. i'm always surprised in rio by the number of toddlers who go to bars late at night with their parents and get giddy on coca-cola, or the 4-year-olds wandering around lapa with mommy and daddy at 4 am. but that's obviously not a good reason to take them away from their parents...
in the case of teatro oficina, there's a messy custody battle at the heart of what's going on (the dad, who comes from a rich family, had already lost custody, but is fighting back with his money and connections). but the big question is one of censorship. in terms of freedom of expression, brasil as a country is moving forward by giant leaps and bounds; the idea that the ministry of culture would recognize teatro oficina as a national treasure (which it is) and foot the bill so that as many brasilians as possible could see it is a big deal, and stands in stark contrast to the repression of previous decades. but there are still plenty of individuals and institutions with just enough power - like police chiefs in rio and family court judges in são paulo - to inflict their own dictatorship-era mentality on the rest of society.
meanwhile, back in the states, my friend and comrade-in-arms brian pickett recently had his high school students' work censored by the new york department of education. they wrote a play, based on antigone, protesting budget cuts and school removals, which they were then forbidden to perform on school property. brian's account is here:
and you can read the script (which takes about 15 minutes) here:
so that's what up in the world of censorship. i'm hoping 2011 is loud and irreverent, incessantly and unapologetically beautiful.