09.09.2009, Words by Charlie Jones

Favela On Blast [Film]

At the height of grunge, Sonic Youth made a film and slapped on it the unlikely title, “1991: The Year That Punk Broke”. One day perhaps someone will make a film about the year that Baile Funk broke. Until then we have Favela On Blast – a documentary, made by global lord of bass, Diplo together with Leandro HBL, which delves into Rio’s outdoor sound system scene and examines Baile Funk, the rambunctious musical style which dominates the city’s crowded and impoverished favela districts.

Diplo has grafted some Baile Funk stylings onto his productions for Santigold and M.I.A and in Favela On Blast we get to see the music creep away from Rio and dip it’s rough, mucky, sex-obsessed toes in the water of respectability. Oh yes, witness the “respectable” Sao Paolo nightclub – watch the dwarf with the big pink cock balloon, admire the gyrating MC’s bikini, sympathise with the randy clubbers as they are welcomed on stage and then rhythmically berated for their finger-up-bum predilections. In the world of Baile Funk, this is respectability.

Back in Rio, things are just as hot but a little bit less forced. As the interviews with the scene’s MCs and DJs build up, we get a taste of everyone’s resolutely local focus; the rapping covers a variety of earthy topics [these are usually funny, often genital-related and occasionally violent] but don’t much step away from the here and now, and the DJing is based on an astonishing beatbox slapping technique seemingly developed to counter the limitations of a genre gleefully restricted to the use of one, sanctified beat. During the lighter, daytime moments there is kite flying and a quick visual lesson in how to build a sound system from scratch. Work that set square!

Favela On Blast mixes up its snapshots of the scene to create a beguiling image of Rio’s isolated and marginalised communities. There is a much, much, much looser grip on chronology and social context than you might expect from, say, a South Bank Show special on June Whitfield but, on the plus side, you get to learn the moves for a new dance called The Frog. You’ll never look at a pond the same way again.

The UK Premiere of Favela On Blast is at The Riverside Cinema, Hammersmith, London on Friday 18th September. It is part of the Cine Fest Brazil festival celebrating new films from Brazil.


You might like