Stories about the fight against inequality are not new and in this day and age of fractured identities, it is even to be expected. Pride for one’s heritage has been told ad-naseum in the United States. In other parts of the world, this recent form of self-consciousness has crept into their cultures as well. However, when it is done in a manner that espouses more than pride at the struggles of ancestors and actually poses solutions for issues that dominate the discourse in said communities, then it is a triumph and more importantly, has the power to inspire and that is no small thing.
Rhythmic Uprising is just that type of film. In Bahia, Brazil, this region is host to one of the most heavily black populations in the country. However, the region is also one of the poorest as racial inequalities translate directly into economic inequality. To combat this, concerned citizens, community organizers and civic-minded people began to construct arts programs whose mission is twofold; to give children a more well-rounded education and to combat social ills such as crime and poverty.
However, there is a primal need for this as well, the continued survival of a people as the children in these courses and programs are the future of their communities and while the kids are the focus, the filmmakers never resort to showing them as pitiful victims and instead, show them to be defiant and vulnerable. While the opposite course would stir more sympathy (and possibly donations) the realities on the ground simply make for more riveting viewing.
Rhythmic Uprising focuses much of its energies on the day to day operations of organizations such as DiDa or ACANNE, showing Capoeira students perfecting moves or scenes from a theater/circus troupe. In these scenes, the film shines as it shows, in mundane fashion no less, the transformative power of art in one’s life. For the countless children that are members of these organizations, this is a second family. If this film accomplishes anything, besides being an interesting look at Brazil, is the obvious need for these types of programs, not just in economically unjust situations, but as a universal need.
While the documentary delves a bit into the groups predecessors such as the famed Quilombos, that is only for context and what could have been a documentary with a historical or even a purely political slant is instead concerned with the minutae of their craft. Of course, a case can be made for broadening the subject matter but thankfully, the makers of the film do not go into political sermonizing, despite the name of the title as to do so would in part, betray one part of the message, the need to prove something to yourself and yourself only. There is a reason for this as the groups themselves function as microcosms with some complete with kitchens and support groups for their crews. While the raison d’etre was for equality, this has also morphed into something that can only be described on a deeply personal level.
The end of the film shows more training, more lectures, since this battle is ongoing and while that can be a depressing sign of the enormity of their task, it also speaks volumes to their refusal to accept their lot in life. This is undoubtedly a revolution in progress, being fought not with guns or even words, but with dance, art and most importantly, with love.