3 years ago

May 2019

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Shenzhen by Range Rover Sport PHEV | A first drive in the new Range Rover Evoque | Mid-century modernist architecture in Germany | George Bamford on what makes true luxury | Meet moon-walker Charlie Duke | Carnival subculture in Brazil

CULTURE Frills, fur,

CULTURE Frills, fur, flashing lights and all that glitters unleash dazzling energy in Guadalupe, a neighbourhood of Rio de Janeiro. In their ornate costumes and masks, a parade of crews take to the streets. With courtly shapes that recall the historic tradition, but neon designs and iridescent trimmings that are thoroughly modern, the look is bright, rich, garish yet regal. After a year of preparation, the crews are like strutting peacocks. Parasols, coloured smoke and fireworks fill the air. Kids rule the streets, full of excitement, bravado and pride. These and other astounding visions are captured in This is Bate Bola, a short film co-directed by Ben Holman and Neirin Jones which takes viewers deep into the heart of a lesser-known Rio Carnival subculture. Away from the main Carnival, bate-bola sees dozens of crews of working-class people put on their own themed parades, a surreal competition between suburban neighbourhoods full of elaborate costumes and props. Equal parts play and menace, bate-bola has roots in African and European carnival traditions in which masked men, banging animal bladders on the ground, would excite and scare the crowds. Today, bladders are replaced by plastic globes tied to sticks – the name means ’beat the ball’. Holman is a British documentary filmmaker with an enviable collection of stamps in his passport – “Plan the holiday that you really want to go on, then work backwards, and find the film that fits,” he jokes – and a track record of films that reveal bravely poignant stories from around the world. Like his films, Holman is warm, engaging and instantly likeable. His energetic, right-inthe-action approach is immediately evident: one of his legs is strapped up because he broke it during filming. Ever since fulfilling a childhood dream to spend the millennium New Year’s Eve on Copacabana Beach, Holman has split his time between London and Brazil. “I’d always had a strong connection with South American culture through friends I’d had as a teenager. It created an affinity for me with that culture.” Holman recalls initial nerves, from preconceptions generated by films such as City of God; “Yes, there are gangsters and guns,” he says. “But you see grannies and children dealing with the situation and getting on with it as part of their day-to-day lives. And I feel, if I’m there, the rules shouldn’t be different for me.” A keen amateur boxer, Holman came across an NGO in one of Rio's most notorious favelas which organised boxing for personal development. Seeing something that went beyond stereotypes of the city, he developed a strong connection with the community and began making films for them, hoping to make a wider impact. One community member, Alan Duarte, set up his own NGO, Abraço Campeão. Telling Alan’s story became a labour of love for Holman. The result, The Good Fight, was deemed Best Documentary Short at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival, leading to funding that now supports over 200 young people in the community. Holman’s films are experiential and intimate. You can feel the atmosphere, excitement, and the sensory power of the moment. They also give a platform to marginalised voices: “A recurring theme in my work is going to places that I feel are misunderstood or misrepresented, where our knowledge is largely formed by what the media tells us, and trying to show the reality. So the idea of Bate Bola was to show that beautiful heart, that warmth that I discovered in those communities, which is very strong and absolutely existent. Batebola is so vibrant. It’s about the noise and the smells and the craziness – it’s fun and beautiful, but also a little bit edgy and Ben Holman turned in a London ad scary. I thought it was an agency job to make documentaries that shine a light on the world's hidden stories amazing metaphor for favela communities themselves.” Holman sees bate-bola as an example of something that may need external validation to be appreciated within its own country. “These people are otherwise invisible. They put on masks to be seen. Outside their small community they’re not known, they’re not getting respect or praise for the beautiful costumes, the art that goes into it all.” The theatre of bate-bola was echoed in special film screenings in Chicago and London, which included a standing audience, a live semi-improvised score with Brazilian musicians and soundtrack creator Ben Lamar Gay's band, and an afterparty with monster speaker stacks to reproduce the carnival vibe. Holman hopes This Is Bate Bola will bring overdue attention to and appreciation of the phenomenon, and to Rio’s other textures beyond Carnival cliches. “Rio for me is simultaneously the most beautiful and the ugliest city in the world,” reflects Ben. “It can get dark, but at the same time, every week I’ve ever been there, there’s always been that moment of genuine magic, of something special.” WATCH THE FILM View This is Bate Bola and learn more about Ben Holman's work at 64



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