How do you stop violence? How do you stop violence? That's the question that rang through Anderson Sa's head in 1993, after police massacred 21 people in his neighborhood, one of the most dangerous favelas (Portugese for slum squatter settlement) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in retaliation for the gunning down of four policemen by a local druglord. One of the 21 victims was Sa's brother, who was killed in a bar when police blew it up with a grenade. Sa notes in a voiceover: "It is as if the spinal cord of the favelas has always been broken."
Violence had always been a part of Sa's life - he witnessed a man beaten and shot to death at the age of 10, and by his early teens was working in the drug trade. The Massacre changed everything for him. "I started thinking to myself, how do we stop the violence?" Sa says. He met with Jose Junior, a favela activist known for working with and empowering the most troubled youth, and together, the two founded Afroreggae Noticias (Afroreggae News) to represent the voice of the Afro-Brazilian population. The newspaper was targeted primarily at young people interested in music, specifically reggae, soul and hip-hop. Soon, they opened a cultural community center in the favela Vigario Geral, one of the most violent favelas in Rio. Sa and Junior's vision was to rebuild the community from a grassroots level, by empowering the people and giving young people something to turn to and hold onto besides the drug culture. They sought to give the people of the favelas a reason to rise and unite.
In their film Favela Rising, filmmakers Jeff Zimbalist and Matt Mochary sought to convey a different image of the favelas than what is normally portrayed by the media. Cinematical recently sat down with director Matt Mochary for a phone interview about the film, and how working on it changed his life. This is Part Two of a two-part interview; Part One, an interview with Matt's directing partner, Jeff Zimbalist, is here.