Recife according to Kleber

I just got done reading a long article from the Portuguese newspaper Público (PT), covering several topics related to Recife, including cinema, music, real estate, protests and politics. Most of the article is an interview with Kleber Mendonça Filho, a famous filmmaker from Recife. Several parts deal with subjects I’ve covered here on my blog, but due to its length, I’m only going to translate a section of it below.


Everything seems in turmoil, structures to be disturbed, which physically corresponds to the moment the city. “It’s a mess. In a place where a lot of money is invested, and there is no training for social investing, it ends up being used in strange ways. For example, the government’s crazy idea to build four bridges on a major street. There was a very strong reaction from a group called Direitos Urbanos, and he [the governor Eduardo Campos, candidate for the presidency of Brazil, in the election which will take place in October] reversed positions. ”

Another case that dominates conversations in Recife is the Estelita Pier, a waterfront on the river with a fabulous sequence of warehouses. “It’s worth millions and millions of euros and was purchased for four million reais, the price of an apartment on Vieira Souto [a street in Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro], to build 14 towers of 40 floors each. It’s as if there’s no internet and people do not travel to other cities. There could be a large area that’s important to the city there, with a human element.”

It’s not the only case. “Recife is being divided into lots and sold in the most savage manner. It’s controlled by the private sector, and both the State government and the local government are not doing anything to stop it.” Kleber had an epiphany on a Christmas Eve when it took him 2h40m to get from downtown to here (Sétubal). “I realized that the whole town was going to the mall. The owners of the malls have succeeded in creating a climate of fear in relation to being on the street. Then, the malls started to have streets, public squares, one even has colonial houses. They try to simulate a city where you pay for everything you do. The city is taught to not want to be in a city itself.”

Just like anywhere, cinemas have migrated to the malls. But not the São Luiz, which Kleber helps to operate on Aurora, a beautiful, bohemian riverfront street. And when he did a series of Kubrick showings there, “the line went around the block”, contradicting the idea that people do not go to things on the street.” Cláudio did a session for his film, A Febre do Rato, in the city center and had over 600 people show up. These are actions of resistance.”

Another example is Som na Rural, an old car stops on the street, doing improvised concerts and suddenly has “3000 people in a place that would otherwise be deserted.” All of this combats what Kleber calls “entrenchment”. What would exist where the Estelita Pier towers are now if not 14 castles?” The biggest fight is for a Recife where there’s less fear of the other, less iron bars (on the windows), less security systems, that’s what is in my film (O Som ao Redor).”


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