Award-winning Brazilian filmmaker Joel Zito Araujo joined graduate student filmmakers in Prof. John Douglass’ class recently to discuss making and funding documentaries.
Araujo, who was in Washington, D.C. for the Brazilian Film Week launch at American University’s Greenberg Theatre, told students that government subsidies provide much of the funding for his work that has captured controversial issues ranging from race to the sex trade. “In Brazil, documentaries are the only way the public sees a different reality,” he said, explaining that most television programs are similar to high-quality and well-produced soap operas.
The students, who are working on thesis films, peppered him with questions about his views of documentaries produced in the U.S. “Only in the U.S. is the director also the protagonist,” he said, citing the films “Supersize Me” and films by Michael Moore. He also said that the range of topics covered by U.S. filmmakers was broad. “All the issues are being covered.”
Araujo was asked about the difficulties he encountered making his most recent film “Wolves, Cinderellas and a Prince Charming” which is about women who participate in the sex trade in hopes of finding a husband. Araujo said the women were open to being filmed but the best way to share their story was to get out of the way and let them tell it. “It’s that disconnection that creates empathy.”