"Seu Benedito, cabra macho do Rojão!"
English title: "Such a musical heritage!"
A feature documentary by Riccardo Migliore
Mr Benedito "do Rojão", playing his dynamic classic guitar
It's a great honor for me to announce my new documentary about master "BENEDITO DO ROJÃO". Everything says it will be my second feature documentary film, while "Aqui Vale Tudo" (About MMA tradition in Paraíba, Brazil) is being post-produced with a current editing time of 71 minutes. It's because of people like Mr Benedito, at the same time humbles and brilliants (and other local artists appearing in my documentaries),that i like to live in the Northeast of Brazil.
Mr Benedito is the legitimate disciple of "Jackson do pandeiro" (literally Jackson of the tambourine), also from Paraiba, one the most important Brazilian musicians of all times.
He plays various percussions, and classic guitar, since he was a child, as his father first taught him. Benedito was born in the rural area of Boa Vista (Paraiba, Brazil), and his father was the "administrator" of a huge property owned by one of the most fierce "coronels" of the time. Coronels were the most important land owners that, in the conservative context of the Northeast of Brazil, used to rule about every aspect of life (and death), being a consistent ally to politicians, when they weren't politicians themselves. He grew up, quite poor, in a culturally rich ambient, as his mother came from a small town very close to a reknowned "quilombo" (afrodescendant community), called "Caiana dos Crioulos" (Paraiba's most famous negro community). Caiana is famous for its "Coco de roda", a traditional afro-indian musical tradition. They actually talk about playing "Coco", as accompanied by music, one sings, and others answer to the "coco". Benedito's mother was one of these "answering singers", kind of a backvocalist. His father was coming from Goiana, a small town in rural Pernambuco, also a traditional "Coco's land" (please note that there are many Coco traditions, due to the ethnic and social, cultural variety, that exists in the Northeast of Brazil).
Benedito was born and grew up in this semi-arid region (sometimes it becomes a real desert), and at the age of 13, he moved to Campina Grande, Paraiba's interior main city. There he met Jackson, who became his master and friend. As it was common at that time, Jackson (who was a 25 years old fellow) used to take young Benedito to the "cabaré" (whorehouse) and also initiated the teenager to the fine art of seducing girls and ladies. Jackson is considered to be the main Northeastern "malandro". Dear reader, try to understand that "malandro" cannot be translated in English or in any other language, cause is a peculiar Portuguese word. Malandro is mainly used as a common sense to describe either a wise guy, an artist whose skills are mainly directed to the already mentioned art of seduction, who doesn't really like to work, and also, who, somehow, is a 'borderline' character, beyond a clear definition of good and evil. Nevertheless, this meaning has been originated, historically, in the complex Brazilian society of the XIX (19th) century, while slavery was still the main economical peculiarity of the Brazilian system and free but poor individuals could hardly find a job, and when they found it, it was very tough and awfully paid. That's why, in that period, free people, between them many black men (in all the shades between light and deep dark brown), had to become wise in getting their way in that restricted context based on a real lack of opportunities. Some of them made their way entering the crime scene, some others got out of delinquency and, due to their musical skills, became samba musicians. That is how the whole "malandro" thing began. Until present time, "malandro" is someone linked to that world of samba, especially in Rio de Janeiro. But, due to the bourgeois appropriation of this "malandro" attitude, the incredible variety of cultures and peoples present in Brazil, and also, its regional contexts, soon, the "malandro" way became a national aspect, a real mark of Brazilian identity, that is, such a complex matter, considering the richness of Brazilian traditions, either Afro-descendants, Indigenous, or European, but also Arabic, Eastern (mainly Japanese) and also Jewish. "Malandro", actually, is an ambiguous attitude, that can be either positive, negative or both. It's something similar to "saudade", another Portuguese only word and attitude.
That's how the "malandragem" (attitude of being a "malandro", with its huge fades of significance) reached Paraiba, and in that poor, conservative land, mainly rural despite of the cyclic risk of a drought, it became even more complex, adding the regional way of being to the influence of the "malandros" from Rio de Janeiro. With late Luiz Gonzaga and Jackson do Pandeiro, the sounds of Northeast began to influence the South and Southeast of Brazil, actually, the opposite that it used to happen all the time, as Southeast used to be the richest region of the country, its economical and political heart. That's why, Benedito do Rojão (today in his late seventies), having been the main direct disciple of Jackson do Pandeiro, has got such a musical heritage.
"Rojão" is a musical style, peculiar of rural Northeast such as forró (It's told that American soldiers from a base in Natal intended the musical style they used to hear and dance there as "for all", that local people turned into "forró", the main northeastern musical style).Like every other kind of music, today forró is going through many changes, there are many new bands and the rural themes are losing its original value as young singers are literally getting into vulgar nonsenses, very commercial stuff, quick to be "created and composed", easily sold, and making lots of nobodies into musical "stars". Benedito do Rojão doesn't follow this tendence, he plays traditional "pé de serra" (literally "foot of the mountain"), the original rural "forró",that chants the countryside' s reality as it was an anhtropological portrait of habits, places, relationships, peoples and everything most deeply rooted in the Northeast and especially, in Paraiba.
Forró, Côco and Rojão being his main musical rhythms and beats, he also plays Ciranda, a few other traditional regional styles and even Samba.
Furthermore, he is a "repentista" (improvises poetry while playing a traditional dynamic viola). The art of repente is originally from Europe, but disappeared in the Old Continent and was preserved in the Deserts of the Northeast of Brazil, so today is intended to be a local tradition and is still practiced, mainly by old people, but also by some young artists. Benedito do Rojão was a "cantador de viola" for almost twenty years.
The conservative way of the interior of Paraíba, ruled by the "coronels" for ages, and even nowadays, ruled by a few important families, is responsible for the fact that such an artist like Mr Benedito, only achieved to record a CD at the age of sixty. He then recorded more four, mainly with the help of a few Professors of the Federal University of Campina Grande. He also recorded a couple by himself, as an independent musician and is going to record his first DVD, also with the support of the Art and Media Department of the Federal University of Campina Grande. Actually, Paraiba, especially at a local, interior level, doesn't really invest much in arts, and culture is a matter that is only considered (and mentioned...) during rural festivals in June (São João, "St.John" in English, is the corn harvest festival that, also inherited from rural France, makes Paraíba and especially Campina Grande, the real stage of a 30 days festival, people drinking, eating corn, and dancing forró all night long). Further than politics, none of the various private companies really takes arts and culture as a serious matter. That's why, local artists actually live in very simple houses, and earn a little money doing their shows, or recording and selling their CDs for a few dollars. This is a cultural heritage of the coronels way, very rich land owners that used to pay "the others" with natural products, accommodation, and eventually pocket money. Even after centuries, Paraiba is still one of the most socially unjust Brazilian states, where a small elite live like Hollywood stars while common people are getting "breadcrumbs". Due to local politics, it's still happening and changes are very slow and hard to happen in the interior of Paraiba, even after ten years of the social, center-left wing, Federal politics of Lula and Dilma Rousself, often imitated at a local proportion in such a warmer way. And things goes on at the rythm of forró, while culture will be considered only in June 2013...
This documentary will be partially a road movie of an artist with many stories to tell, many memories, including places, people and situations. It will be a chance to show the beauty and variety of the interior of Paraiba, either in geographical or human, i mean, anthropological sense. Other first class local musicians will appear in (improvised) jam sessions and we also show intimate, familiar, relationships of Master Benedito, that can be a chance for him to say something about the way it all changed in terms of leading with sons, grandsons etc since he was a child and used to take off his father's boots after the hard field work.
I take a chance to publish a few pictures that i've taken with my own cell phone's camera between one video sequence and the next one.
Any film production company, public institution, ONG, or individual that might contribute in allowing this documentary to be done with at least a low budget, please contact me by e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Otherwise, i'll keep on self-financing and producing my documentaries, as usual...
Director Riccardo Migliore's bio-filography in brief: Born in Milan, Italy, lives in Brazil since 2004 with a permanent Visa. Independent documentary videomaker, since March 2010 is working as a consultant for the Brazilian Ministry of Culture, Secretary of Audiovisuals. Directed more than twenty between documentaries and fiction short films, all of them no budget/self produced, but still, many of them have been selected in either national or international film festivals, and in 2011, his documentary "Kelly Alves, portrait of a transexual" (original title: "Barras e barreiras, retrato de Kelly Alves") was awarded as the best medium-lenght film in the 6th Human Rights Latin America Film Festival (6ª Mostra de Cinema e Direitos Humanos na América Latina). Considering official selections in film festival, between others can be mentioned: It's all true/International Documentary Film festival/State of Things (2011); Cineport – International Portuguese Speaking Countries Film festival (2007, 2011), In-Edit Brasil/International Music Documentary Film festival (2011), 6ª Rassegna Brasil Cinema Contemporaneo (Milan, Italy 2011), Zanzibar International Film Festival (2007), Cinesul – Latin America Film Festival(2011), Mostra Internacional do filme etnográfico/International Ethnographic Film Festival (2009), Cine Documenta (2010, 2011), Festival Prêmio Roberto Rossellini/Roberto Rossellini Award Festival (Italy, 2004), 6ª Mostra de Cinema e Direitos Humanos na América Latina/6th Latin America Human Rights Film festival (2011); 2nd International Uranium Film Festival (Rio de Janeiro, June 2012), 11a Mostra do Filme Livre (Rio de Janeiro/S. Paulo/Brasilia, 2012), We spek here, Culture Unpluegged's International online film festival (2012). In Milan, he studied Arts (Highschool at Liceo Artístico I) and Filmmaking (Scuola del Cinema, TV e Nuovi Media – Fondazione Scuole Civiche di Milano, 1997-98 and 2001-2003), and worked for a few production companies like Mercurio Cinematografica. Participated of workshops with international professionals of the film Industry, like Gianfilippo Pedote, Gianni Squitieri, Bruno d’Annunzio, Renzo Rossellini, Mohammed Kalari, Yesim Ustaoglu, Marcélia Cartaxo, Ralf Tambke between others; And also coordinated workshops such as introduction to photography, introduction to filmmaking and introduction to non-fictional films (UFCG, 2008-2009). Actually he's concluding a graduation course in Social Sciences at the Federal University of Campina Grande (UFCG, Brazil), researching Ethnographic films and visual anthropology (2012). Some of Riccardo's documenteries, including the award winner "Kelly Alves, portrait of a transexual" are represented (worldwide) by Elo Company, an International distribution company based in S. Paulo, Brazil. Any info, please contact Margot Brandão at email@example.com