A cultural exchange

The Baltimore Sun

After visiting Brazil, filmmaker Mari Gardner wanted to do something to foster intercultural exchange with the country.

So two years ago, she worked with the Creative Alliance to create ?Viva Brasil! The third annual three-day celebration kicks off tomorrow and includes film, Brazilian food and drink, dancing, music and a capoeira demonstration.

The film screening tomorrow is Gardner's Violence Next Door: Growing Up in the Favela and the Hood and came out of an exchange between Rio de Janeiro and Baltimore youths. The documentary contains footage of the violence and corruption in Rio de Janeiro and Baltimore neighborhoods, captured entirely by young people.

"It really let them see that there were people in the world who were having similar experiences," Gardner says of the young filmmakers. To find young filmmakers in Baltimore, Gardner worked with the youth empowerment group On Our Shoulders. Gardner says that her point in creating these documentaries is not simply to show the reality of these neighborhoods, but also to allow young people to speak for themselves.

"I work with so many amazing people," Gardner says, "and I am tired of people talking bad about them."

Gardner also says that seeing their stories on film has frequently helped the youths think about their lives and make progress. The Rio and Baltimore filmmakers will have the opportunity to see their films on screen at ?Viva Brasil!, which Gardner says is very empowering for them. After the showing, Gardner, the filmmakers and Ray Cook, director of On Our Shoulders, will have a panel discussion.

Saturday's events include a Samba Dance Party with lessons.

The final day, Sunday, will showcase the Brazilian martial art of capoeira. Equal parts dance, game and martial art, capoeira's history is long and hazy. The Angola style of capoeira is preserved and practiced by the International Angola Capoeira Foundation. The foundation's show will be a traditional "roda." Accompanied by music, participants and observers gather in a circle around the opponents. As the opponents move to the music, they dodge, cartwheel and perform acrobatics in an attempt to strike or knock one another over. The strikes are pulled because the roda is intended as a show of skill and practice, not a fight.

All events in the ?Viva Brasil! celebration are at the Creative Alliance at the Patterson, 3134 Eastern Ave. The film screening is at 8 p.m. tomorrow. Tickets are $5-$7. The Samba Dance Party on Saturday begins at 8 p.m. with lessons, and continues with dancing at 9 p.m. Tickets are $13-$16. The Capoeira Roda is 2 p.m.-6 p.m. Sunday, and admission is free. Call 410-276-1651 or go to creativealliance.org.

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