Brazil: An Inconvenient History (2001)

BBC Timewatch

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Date Added: 9 years ago.

Documentary Description

At first glance Brazil appears to be an alluring playground of exciting carnivals, sultry samba, divine football and a vibrantly diverse people. But behind this dazzling facade lies a disturbing story of history's largest-ever slave population. Astonishingly Brazil, a Portuguese colony, received ten-times more African slaves than the numbers transported to North America. This programme looks at those estimated 4 million people with whose blood, sweat and tears Brazil was built. Without them none of Brazil's present-day success and appeal would exist. Using contemporary testimonies, this film takes a hard look at Brazil s dark history through the eyes of those slaves. They lived in squalid conditions on remote plantations or in teeming cities harbouring fatal diseases. Most Africans survived only seven years in this 'New World'. Some, however, did survive to create a new culture a fusion of African and European. This new ethnicity permeates and explains the modern Brazilian way of life. This outstanding film, winner of the Houston Film Festival Gold Award, is directed by Phil Grabsky. His film throws light on Brazil s inconvenient history .

While everyone knows of the history of slavery in the USA, few people realize that Brazil was actually the largest participant in the slave trade. Forty percent of all slaves that survived the Atlantic crossing were destined for Brazil, while only 4 % were sent to the U.S. At one time half of the population of Brazil were slaves. It was the last country to officially abolish slavery (1888) and one of the ex-slaves is still alive today.

This well- researched BBC production charts Brazil's history using original texts, letters, accounts and decrees. From these original sources, we learn firsthand about the brutality of the slave traders and slave owners, and the hardship of plantation life. With the Portugese colony of Angola acting as a "factory" supplying Africans to Brazil, it was cheaper to replace any slave starved and worked to death than to extend his life by treating him humanely. Few plantation owners sent for their wives to live in this hot climate, so the softening effect of family life was absent among the rough white settlers.

Historians Joao Jose Reis, Cya Teixeira, Marilene Rosa Da Silva, anthropologist Peter Fry, and others recount the effect of centuries of slavery on Brazil today.This is an important documentary for Black history, African history and Latin American studies.

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