Zona Norte

Fifteen years after her documentary WARRIOR OF LIGHT (2001), Monika Treut revisits the subject in this thought-provoking documentary ZONA NORTE.

Within the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, just before the Olympics and the football world cup, Yvonne Bezerra de Mello runs schools for traumatized children to help improve their future lives and Brazil as a whole. She does this because the government has given up on the population of the favelas.

As a filmmaker, Treut has made a decision to not flood the screen with harrowing images, instead she’s chosen to show the benefits of Yvonne’s ‘Projeto Uere’. We see children engaged in learning, hear them talk about the importance of education, and smile as they tell their hopes for adulthood. Also we meet Yvonne’s staff, they’ve been with the project almost from the beginning. They talk passionately about the students, their job satisfaction and their respect and admiration for Yvonne. This is a bold move Treut has made to keep the documentary as light as possible. It would be easy to show violent images, as these often have the biggest impact in documentaries, but in this film it is quite the opposite. There are some scenes of the army and police with their weapons, but they are brief and have less weight than the uplifting images of kids throwing their hand in the air to answer a question.

ZONA NORTE stars Yvonne Bezerra de Mello, and that is just what she is. She talks from the heart, with first-hand knowledge of seeing the poverty and lack of solutions. She tours the city, educating teachers in other schools in order for them to help children and build a better Brazil. Yvonne has realised that the government will not help. She mentions that during the sporting bonanza happening in the country, the state will spend seven hundred and fifty thousand dollars a day to put police officers on the streets, when everything in the favelas needs replacing from “top to toe”.

The most interesting parts of the documentary are when it focuses on former students that were in her previous film. We meet a family of sisters, and the back and forth of footage from when they were young to adults with jobs, husbands and children is satisfying. The sisters now grown admit their lives are owed to Yvonne and Projeto Uere.

ZONA NORTE is a nice documentary that shows the sacrifice people make for others.


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