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Quilombo Country

Distributed by Quilombo Films, 71 East 4th Street, #3A, New York, NY 10003; 212-260-7540
Produced by Leonard Abrams
Directed by Leonard Abrams
DVD, color, 73 min.
College - Adult
African Studies, Anthropology, Geography, Human Rights, Latin American Studies

Reviewed by Charmaine Henriques, Northwestern University Library, Evanston, IL

Date Entered: 3/7/2008

Millions of African slaves were imported to Brazil, making the country the largest slave colony in modern history. The slaves had the right to work, be stepped on, and tortured. There were those who joined secret societies, resisted, and staged rebellions. Those who escaped formed their own communities called Quilombos. Today all traditional African descendent villages are known as Quilombos and are given a status similar to those of indigenous groups. Like their ancestors before, these communities still fight for their rights today.

This 73 minute digitally filmed documentary is narrated by Chuck D (hip hop lyricist of Public Enemy). Daily life is explored as the audience views the construction of homes and the production of agricultural staples such as rice, manioc, and babassu coco. Portrayals of religious, social, and cultural ceremonies (such as the Feast of Santa Filomena, and Boi Bumba) are interspersed throughout the film. History of the Quilombos, land rights issues, and the racism that still exists are discussed. Racial identity is still a subject close to taboo in Brazil, with more than half the population having some African blood, but identifying as White or from other subcategories of race. Myths are looked at such as the legend of Saci-Perere, a one legged elf that lives in the forest and scares people from cutting down trees and killing the animals and Matita Pereira, a crazed unkempt woman who appears on Friday nights and scares the men. Musical instruments such as the Carimbo (drum) and the Cipriano Melo (guitar/banjo) are shown and played while (subtitled) songs during religious and cultural celebrations are sung. This film covers a broad and sizeable amount of information about the Quilombos and is quite lengthy. Additionally, the portrayal of the religious and cultural ceremonies were interesting and impressive but less time could have been spent on these aspects, and more time could have been spent on the socioeconomic, educational, and rural/urban realities and struggles of the people of the Quilombos.


  • Best Film/Video Documentary, 2007 Black International Cinema Berlin Festival