In 2002 filmmaker Monika Treut shot a film called Warrior of Light, a documentary that followed the efforts of activist Yvonne Bezerra de Mello as she attempted to create an alternative education system aimed at the street kids of Brazil’s favelas. Zona Norte is a follow up of sorts, charting the achievements and the continuing struggles of Yvonne’s project, Uere.
Taking a straightforward and rather matter-of-fact approach to the subject matter, Zona Norte is made up almost entirely of interviews and devoid of the heart-wrenching score one would normally associate with such a production. It lends the film a certain authenticity: there have been no attempts to dramatise the already dramatic, nor to hide the ugly realities of growing up in what is essentially a war zone. It is, as many of those in the film say, what it is.
Beginning with a brief history of Uere and a rundown of its revolutionary teaching method (which seems to mainly involve treating children as individuals as opposed to the “one size fits all” method of teaching so many schools employ), Truet creates a quietly poignant picture of hope in the midst of such tumultuous times. Yvonne herself explains the difficulties the children of the favelas face, from violence in the home to violence in the streets and homelessness – problems that will only worsen in the run up to the 2016 Olympics. But there is no time in Truet’s film for despair and the second half focuses mostly on catching up with the students and workers featured in Warrior of Light. Through their words and passion, it is clear just how much of an impact Uere has had on their lives, teaching them to read, write and even to talk.
It’s a heartening and inspirational film and it provides a solid argument for just how vital projects like Uere are to underprivileged children everywhere.
Zona Norte does not yet have a UK release date.
Read more of our reviews and interviews from the festival here.
For further information about Berlin Film Festival 2016 visit here.
Watch the trailer for Zona Norte here: