The Brazilian feature film Doutor Gama was selected to participate in the American Black Film Festival (ABFF), the largest black film event in the world. The national film is among the 10 works chosen to be part of the edition that marks the festival’s 25th anniversary.
Directed by filmmaker Jeferson De, Doutor Gama tells the story of one of the most impressive characters in Brazilian history. Abolitionist Luiz Gama was born free in Bahia, was sold by his own father to pay a gambling debt, learned to read and write as an adult and, as a lawyer, freed more than 500 enslaved people.
In theaters and available on the platform streaming Globo Play since the beginning of the month, the film has been receiving positive reactions from critics and audiences. Participating in the ABFF is yet another point of consecration, which opens the way for possibilities such as Oscar and Bafta.
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In an interview with the Brazil in fact, Jeferson talked about the selection firsthand (listen to the conversation in full on the audio player below the title of this story). Moved, he celebrated: “I got the news yesterday. My eyes are still shining.” For the filmmaker, selection indicates interest in a story that needs to be told.
“It’s something very big, because the American black community has been pressing the Oscars for a long time. Getting there with a Brazilian and black film right now is very important.” The director adds, “They’re keeping an eye on us. They want to know – who is this greatest Brazilian abolitionist that we’ve never heard of?”.
movie life but real life
Luiz Gama is the owner of a surprising story, which leaves the trajectory of any fictional super hero to shame. He was the son of Luísa Mahin, a free African woman who actively participated in black and black uprisings in Bahia.
“In 1837, after Dr. Sabino’s revolution in Bahia, she came to Rio de Janeiro, and never returned. I looked for her in 1847, in 1856 and in 1861, at the Court, without being able to find her.” says Gama himself in a letter to journalist and friend Lucio de Mendonça, dated 1880.
At the age of ten, Luiz Gama was sold by his own father, taken by boat to Rio de Janeiro and bought by a smuggler. With a group of more than 100 enslaved people, he crossed the natural wall of Serra do Mar, from Santos to São Paulo, on foot.
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It was in São Paulo that he grew up, a servant in the house of a white family. He learned to read and write as an adult, attended law classes as a listener at the University of São Paulo (USP), got a license to act, even though he was not officially enrolled, and, from there, went to court.
“It’s a child, who was born free. He was sold by his own father, marketed as a thing, product, object”, says Jeferson De. The director, however, says that Luiz Gama’s life does not fit into the concept of a hero.
“I had the impression that I was making a movie about a super hero and all the time I had to correct myself. I used to say – it’s not a super hero, this is Luiz Gama and this is Luiz Gama’s fight, which probably it was the struggle of many people,” says Jeferson.
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The filmmaker wants much more than recording this journey on film. For Jeferson, Luiz Gama needs to be recognized and reach everyone, including the “broken”. “It’s our story, it’s like rescuing the story of a relative, a grandfather. For me there’s this place, me, as a black man, making a film about an ancestor.”
From the words of Jeferson comes the certainty that, in today’s Brazil, knowing, celebrating and highlighting the figure of Luiz Gama are acts of absolute relevance. “He has an importance for us blacks, but he has an importance for this Brazil that we want each other, a republic, a free Brazil, with the participation of everyone.”
Edition: Vivian Virissimo