Since it was first built by war veterans in 1897, Morro da Providncia has become a complex symbol of poverty, violence and sentimentality, fetishised in popular culture. But where do the favelas fit into Brazils vision for the Olympic Games?
Among Brazilian film buffs and cultural historians, the film Favela dos Meus Amores has gained cult-like status. Released in 1935, it chronicles the musical and amorous adventures of two young men who put on a cabaret for tourists in the Morro da Providncia, the hill near the port area of Rio de Janeiro, which, 40 years earlier, had become Brazils first favela.
One of the men falls for the beautiful teacher Rosinha, muse of the local samba musicians a character described in one contemporary review as a rare flower, who preserves her beauty among those perverted people [of the favela].
The film no longer exists; all copies were either lost or destroyed. Its reputation rests partly on the mystique generated by this absence, and partly on the hugely enthusiastic critical reaction of the time.
Notably, while the lead actors were all professionals, most of the cast members and musicians came from Providncia itself. The film could be said to mark the moment when the favela previously a byword for criminality, sickness and moral depravity started to become chic.
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