It may seem like the entire world has caught football fever however, the protests in Brazil continue day in, day out. The web documentary ''Copa Para Quem'' goes on the hunt for the roots of the protests and the impact of the World Cup on Brazil. We spoke with director Maryse Williquet.
Last year in June, millions of Brazilians expressed their dissatisfaction with the FIFA World Cup by taking to the streets. Using the slogan ''Copa Para Quem?'' (World Cup for who?) , the protesters started to demand who exactly benefits and profits from the World Cup. Since then, peace has hardly returned to Brazil. But who are these demonstrators and what are they denouncing? How has the World Cup in Brazil really been carried out? What will the consequences of hosting the tournament there be?
To find the answers to these questions, Maryse Williquet and her team went to Fortaleza, one of the 12 official locations of the World Cup, and lived there for a number of months. Fortaleza is the capital of Céara, the country's poorest state that also represents the paradox of contemporary Brazil. Behind the picture-perfect coastlines lies a world that's rife with sex tourism and prostitution, favelas and street kids – a world that is not often shown in mainstream media.
The team met with outraged citizens as well as those deemed ''unwanted'' – people who have been pushed out of the cities. The interactive multimedia project, also called "Copa Para Quem?", gives these people the chance to make their voices heard and provides us the opportunity to better understand the underbelly of Brazil's moment in the spotlight. The documentary gathers gathers clips and background information related to four themes – forced evictions, street children, sex tourism and awakening of social movements.
We spoke with director Maryse Williquet about how the project came about, the experience the team had with the people they interviewed and the problems and opportunities the World Cup poses for Brazil.
switch-asbl.org Maryse Williquet (second from right) working with her team. Source: switch-asbl.org
How did you get the idea of making a webdoc on Brazil? Do you have a special relationship with this country?
I always been very intrigued by the internal contrast of the country. It is now the sixth economy and yet has an immense amount of poverty. It seemed to me most people have a very unrealistic image of Brazil and when the social movements broke out in June 2013, I took it as a sign to visit the country myself and find out what was happening. What was the initial situation before the protests? Why did so many people hit the streets, what were they claiming? What did the “real” Brazilians think about the World Cup and the way it was organised in their country? What drove me was to get sincere testimonies from local people around this.
What was your experience with the people while filming?
At first they were very surprised we wanted to investigate the social impact of the World Cup. It seemed very strange for a foreign journalist to want to know the other side of the story. Then we gained their trust and we managed to get accepted into the community and some social movements. They are very aware that international media visibility could be useful to show the world what was really happening in Brazil and break the image the “official” Brazilian media are relaying. They trusted us to relay their own point of view, which is all too seldom heard in the media. So we linked with some key people to get real profound testimonies.
What do you think about the World Cup? What are opportunities, what are the biggest problems?
I would say that the World Cup, unfortunately, is a big money organisation. It used to be about sports but it seems that nowadays FIFA only cares about itself. The World Cup is used by some really powerful people to make a lot of money, regardless of the social consequences of such an event and with very little financial return for the host country. It seems to be quite disconnected from the social realities of the countries in which it’s organised.
But at the same time, it still remains a global celebration. It gathers people from all over the world around a collective game. It’s one big party, celebrated by rich and poor alike. Let’s hope the party will provoke social change this time. It seems to me that Brazilians effectively used the international media attention of the World Cup to put their claims in the limelight. It surely has awoken Brazilian social movements and the youth, some of which were not organised before.
What do you think will happen while the matches are on?
On the one hand, it is quite obvious that protests will continue, and maybe increase thanks to the improved organisation within the protest movements. It’s not only going to be improvised demonstrations anymore, as it was in June 2013. On the other hand, the police also have the time to get well prepared and some say they will be much more violent. That could lead to frightening some protesters and decimate the ranks of the protests.
How do you deal personally with the ambivalence of this World Cup? Will you watch the matches?
Personally, I’m not a football fan, but I’m not in favour of a boycott either. It is important to note that we are not against the World Cup, nor are we against football. Our goal with this project is to inform and draw attention to the main question: Who benefits from the World Cup? We think the World Cup would be even better if the organisation took into account the social and economic impacts [of the event] on the less well off in society. Ideally, the documentary should be watched alongside or in between the games. That is why we are trying to organise joint screenings of our film with public screenings of the games.
Any suggestions about how one can engage/ make a positive impact somehow from this part of the world?
I think our role is to shed light on what happens behind the glitz and glamour of the World Cup, helping the less well off in Brazil to show the world what their reality is made of. We wanted to give a voice to the voiceless: those who are protesting, who are excluded by traditional media and do not recognise themselves in the domestic marketing strategies picturing a perfect Brazil. To do this we need international visibility, and this is where everyone can help. Now is the time to share the webdocumentary as much as possible. In one month it will all be over again.
Our series "Spotlight Brazil" looks at local people, organisations and movements that incorporate and implement smart approaches to sustainability and social justice. Find other articles in the series here.