A Present Past - Afro-Brazilian Memories in Rio de Janeiro

A Present Past highlights the strong oral tradition of slave descendants from the former plantations of the Souza Breves family, in the south of the state of Rio de Janeiro. It rescues vivid details about the illegal trade of slaves and the experiences of slaves and freed ancestors. CLICK HERE TO WATCH THE FILM.

The jongo and oral tradition are part of the cultural and family heritage that became a core aspect of the ‘maroon’ identity of these communities. Both support broader political struggles against racism and contribute to ensuring collective ownership of land. The documentary is also intended for educational purposes, following the Brazilian National Curriculum Guidelines for Education of Ethnic-Racial Relations and the Teaching of Afro-Brazilian and African History and Culture.

The documentary is based on fieldwork that started in 2007, coordinated by historians Hebe Mattos and Martha Abreu, through the Laboratory of Oral History and Image (LABHOI} and the Centre for Research in Cultural History (NUPEHC) of the Fluminense Federal University (UFF). Another outcome of the research are the audiovisual archives Acervo UFF Petrobrás Cultural Memória e Música Negra. The archives currently hold over 300 hours of recordings, especially interviews with descendants of slaves from different regions of the State of Rio de Janeiro.

The catalogue of the collection can be browsed on the web, and allows searches for keywords with a licence-free software. The material itself can be consulted in the archives of LABHOI in the Central University Library Gragoatá, at Fluminense Federal University (www.labhoi.uff.br).

The new shootings and the editing of A Present Past were made during 2010 and 2011, sponsored by FAPERJ and CNPq and supported by the Ministry of Culture through the Pontão de Cultura do Jongo e do Caxambu.

A Present Past is the fourth documentary produced by LABHOI about the trajectory, memory and cultural heritage of the descendants of slaves from the former province of Rio de Janeiro. The other films, Memórias do Cativeiro (Memories of Captivity, 2005); Jongos, Calangos e Folias, Música Negra, Memória e Poesia (Jongos, Calangos and Folias, Black Music, Memory and Poetry, 2007); and Versos e Cacetes, o Jogo do Pau na cultura afro-fluminense (Verses and Cudgels, Stick Playing in the Afro-Brazilian Culture of the Paraiba Valley, 2009) are available on DVD and can be viewed and downloaded online at the chain LABHOI_UFFtube.

Passados Presentes: memória negra no sul fluminense (A Present Past - Afro-Brazilian Memories in Rio de Janeiro) | 2011 | Runtime: 43 min | Directed by: Hebe Mattos and Martha Abreu. Screenplay: Hebe Mattos, Martha Abreu and Isabel Castro. Edited by: Isabel Castro. Cinematography: Guilherme Fernández. Additional Camera: Luiz Giban and Thiago Campos Pessoa. Sound: Helio Leite and Gilciano Menezes. Research: Hebe Mattos, Martha Abreu, Patrícia Brandão Couto, Thiago Campos Pessoa. Research Assistents: Emanuela Caeres, Jana Leal, Sara Carolina de Castilho, Thaís Amaral, Camila Marques. Consultants: Ana Lugão Rios, Matthias Assunção and Aloysio Clemente Breves.

A Present Past Verses and Cudgels Jongos, Calangos and Folias Memories of Captivity