African programs occupy extremely little space in the programming of Brazilian television broadcasting stations, a vehicle present in 95.1% of Brazilian homes, according to the latest official statistics. There is no commercial television broadcasting company correspondent on the African continent. Thus, information coming from there only comes from international agencies. Generally, the broadcasts show just stereotypes of poverty, epidemics, and ethnic conflicts. The public network, TV Brasil, financed by the Brazilian government has decided to launch the program, The purpose of “Nova África” (New Africa) is for increasing the knowledge level of Brazilians on the African continent.
Through this program, the audience can learn about different African countries, where local leaders narrate on their problems and especially on their own solutions. Workers, politicians, intellectuals, artists, and social activists are heard. “This is a new way to see Africa”, declares Luiz Carlos Azenha, the journalist responsible for the first season of this attraction. “We are trying to break away from the condescending attitude or folklore, so common in Brazilian coverage on Africa”, he said at the time the program was launched.
In order to produce the program, which blends documentary language with journalistic treatment of contents, the government broadcasting company launched an edict for contracting an independent producer. The first season was shown in 2009, including 26 episodes and each one was 26 minutes long, it was produced by Baboon Filmes, winner of the technical and price bidding. In 2011, TV Brasil launched an edict for a second season of Nova África. “We have already been present on the African continent for five years. We wish to show a modern Africa, politicized with flavor, musicality, and culture”, tells Luciana Pires, partner at Cine Group, the winning bidding company. “We have chosen subjects ranging to two or three countries in each program. We list all the subjects we want to broadcast. For example, the first heart transplant that took place in Africa”.
The work has not been easy for the team. After all, it was necessary to film in 30 countries in a period of only two months. “We contracted local producers and we set up a network of African consultants in the most diverse fields, such as science, politics, and culture so that we could show what Africa is really like”. The series is presented by an African and two Brazilians. There were 35 professionals behind the cameras involved from the beginning to the end of the project lasted for twelve months.
TV Brasil, besides just airing the “Nova África” program aired other programs on the African continent, such as a series of documentaries, “Mama África” (African Mommy), the “Ciclo de Cinema Africano” (the African Cinema Cycle), it focused on presenting feature movies and an Angolan soap opera “Windeck”. It was produced in 2012 by Semba Comunicação, an Angolan producer, and it has been broadcast in Brazil since 2014, Windeck is the first Angolan soap opera broadcast in Brazil.
In spite of making cultural proximity possible between Angola and Brazil, the soap opera also features countless black actors and actresses, as that normally does not take place in Brazilian productions. “This is an important milestone for strengthening the Afro-Brazilian identity and for narrowing cultural relations between the two countries”, emphasizes Américo Martins, CEO of EBC; the controlling government company of TV Brasil.
“Brazilian television does not provide blacks any effective participation in their programming, thus reproducing racism permeating in Brazilian society”, states the researcher at USP, Osmar Teixeira Gaspar. “The initiative of TV Brasil is very relevant and important for the self-esteem of the Afro-Brazilian population, who are beginning to see, that not only video, but there are other possibilities for working in other activities”. This journalist is a militant in the black equal rights movement. Rosário Medeiros, reminds us of the lack of visibility of blacks in backstage television work. “Large-scale media is still very restricted, for example, the number of professional black journalists is very small” he exclaims.
“We have to know where we came from”, argues Luciana Pires, from the Cine Group. “We performed a pre-test on the series Nova África. There was a qualitative analysis in two Brazilian states. The responses were expressive. Many people said “they did not know there were museums and schools on the African continent” and “they did not know that the cities there were extremely organized”, she laments.
In spite of the efforts of the producers and public recognition for the work TV Brasil has been doing, modern Africa still continues remote for the majority of Brazilians. That is because, TV Brasil is still not known by 68% of Brazilians, according to information published by the broadcasting company. “Public communication cannot just remain on the sidelines, watching what is happening in this process. We have to unite and work together, compete for the market, winning hearts and minds and achieving that relevance and that leadership”, concludes Américo Américo Martins, from EBC.
Broadcasting the “Nova África” program made TV Brasil win the “Prêmio Camélia da Liberdade” (the Camélia da Liberdade Award) in March 2013. This award seeks to recognize and foment public institutions, universities, governments, companies, and communication vehicles to develop projects for affirmative actions, valorizing diversity and ethnic inclusion. Broadcasting “Windeck” made TV Brasil win the award again in 2015.
CINE Group: Brazilian know-how in Africa
Cinevídeo was created in 1997 and the CINE Group producer nowadays has offices in Brasília, São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, and Maputo. It received an invitation from the Mozambican network Soico Televisão (STV) that began the history of the company on the African continent. The idea was to train professionals in tele-dramatization. “We connect our professionals with African. Due to this enchanting experience, we decided to stay. In that period, we were able to exchange and share experiences among those professionals. We took Brazilians there and brought Africans here. That was very enriching for both sides”, celebrates Luciana. The partnership resulted in a mini-series named “N’Txuva, Vidas em Jogo” (Lives at stake), with 16 chapters and each one was 15 minutes long, and it involved 25 professionals from the Cine Group and over 100 Mozambicans.
There are only two Brazilian among the twenty employees in the Mozambican office. The African branch office opened its doors to new projects in the region, as for example, the documentary “Mama África”, that displays a portrait of the African continent, based on true stories from the characters (and personalities) from ten countries (South Africa, Cape Verde, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Malawi, Morocco, Mozambique, Senegal, Swaziland and Tanzania) and “Mulheres Africanas” (African Women), a series of documentaries that show stories, questions, and conquests of five women leaders in Africa: Graça Machel, Leymah Gbowee, Sara Marasi, Nadine Gordimer, and Luisa Diogos. “We are fighting to produce a feature movie with quality dramaturgic contents. All the professionals who are there are extremely important in order to face this courageous fictional projects”, states Luciana.