Rhythmic Uprising is a documentary film that shows how cultural leaders in Bahia, Brazil use vibrant Afro-Brazilian traditions to fight racism, social exclusion, and poverty. The film outlines the transformative powers of a large movement of grassroots cultural youth projects that make up the latest chapter in a creative struggle for racial equality that began four centuries ago with Brazil's first communites of freed slaves called "Quilombos". Traditions featured in the film include capoeira, candomblé, blocos afros, theater, and circus. Scroll downward to watch the film, or learn about the filmmakers and how they made the film.


Watch the film.

We've had an incredibly meaningful run of screenings at film festivals and community centers throughout Brazil and the United States. We've now made the film available for online viewing in chapters below.

01 Intro: This is the introduction to the film. It also doubles as the film's trailer.


02 Periphery: In this second chapter, we take a look at race in Brazil and how it's intertwined with social and economic exclusion. Marginalized urban communities in Brazil have been popularly nicknamed "Favelas" in the media, but among social scientists, law makers, and activists, these communities are collectively referred to as "Periferia" which means "Periphery" because they're often established on the outskirts of Brazilian cities.


03 Uprising: In this third chapter, we see how a plethora of cultural arts projects have organically sprung up throughout the city of Salvador to take on the challenges that face Brazilian youth.


04 Circo Picolino: In this fourth chapter, we take a look at the legendary Circo Picolino. Counting several decades of struggle since inception, they are one of the oldest cultural arts projects in Brazil and count many former youth participants among current staff. While circus arts are found all over Brazil, Circo Picolino boasts a distinctly Afro-Brazilian style. Founder Anselmo Serrat and mentor Antonio Marcos speak.


05 Beje Ero: In this fifth chapter, we take a look at a small theater group called Beje Ero through the eyes of local guide and group member Mario Roma. On the tour of their public housing project in Ogunjá, Mario shows how celebrated actors Rejane Maia and Anativo Oliveira started the group to mentor youth in their own neighborhood.


06 ACANNE: In this sixth chapter, we take a look at the internationally celebrated martial art of Capoeira Angola through the homegrown example of ACANNE - Associação de Capoeira Angola Navio Negreiro ("Slaveship Capoeira Angola Association"). The association's leader, Mestre Rene, his daughter Barbara "Cris" Bittencourt, and member Gildásio Pereira de Jesus speak about the profound importance of their true-to-form capoeira for Afro-descendent youth in Salvador.


07 Didá: In this chapter, we take a look at one of the most beloved musical ensembles in Brazil: the all-female drum bloco named Didá. Aside from putting on a heartfelt show at carnival every year, they provide a safe environment of mentorship for young girls all year long.


08 Quilombo: After getting a close-up look at inspiring grassroots social projects in Salvador, this chapter takes a step back to see how these diverse groups are bound together by the theme of African heritage. Historically, enslaved Africans who revolted from or escaped from Portuguese colonies in Brazil formed communities called Quilombos. Today, modern cultural associations working outside the confines of an unbalanced social structure fittingly self-identify as quilombos.


09 Candomblé: In this ninth chapter, we take a look at the Afro-Brazilian religion of candomblé and its fundamental role in preserving and nurturing Afro-Brazilian traditions throughout the history of colonial and modern Brazil. Fittingly so, many cultural arts programs in Salvador honor and teach its traditions.


10 Capoeira: Much is said and studied about this Afro-Brazilian martial art and dance as it becomes increasingly popular throughout the world. In this chapter of Rhythmic Uprising, we take a look at some of the benefits of the long-standing tradition of Capoeira Angola in Bahia and what it means in terms of self-identity and pride among Brazilians of African descent.


11 Music: If Brazil is known for anything, it's music. In this chapter of the film, we review the heavy African influence on Brazilian music and take a particular look at the birth of the Blocos movement in Salvador with Ilê Aiyê in the 1970's. Blocos are associations of drum players sometimes numbering into the hundreds. During carnival they're seen in elaborate processions, but year-round they work in their respective neighborhoods to protect and mentor youth.


12 Palmares Today: In this final chapter of Rhythmic Uprising, we reflect on one particularly painful tragedy of Brazilian colonial history: the destruction of its largest and longest-standing quilombo named Palmares. Educator Vanda Machado reminds us, however, that while Palmares was physically destroyed over a century ago, its quest for freedom and equality lives on in all of us.



Meet the filmmakers:

Benjamin Watkins

Benjamin Watkins, Director

Inspired by the music and force of life found in Bahia, Ben began developing this project in 2004 and committed every loose penny and hour of sleep to see it through to its launch in 2008. Most recently he dedicated his time and talents to helping co-producer Eliciana Nascimento produce her own film The Summer of Gods. Feel free to contact Ben: ben[at]rhythmicuprising.org

Eliciana Santos do Nascimento

Eliciana Nascimento, Co-producer and Videographer

Eliciana has been there in our most critical hours of filming and followed the film through distribution as we screened it across the US and Brazil. As a media activist, she lent the project a great amount of sensibility, technical knowledge, and cultural understanding. Most recently, she wrote and directed a beautiful narrative film titled The Summer of Gods. It's about a little girl who is mystically initiated into her ancestral spiritual tradition by Orishas (African gods) during a visit to her grandmother’s rural village. If you enjoyed Rhythmic Uprising, you'll love her film. Take a look.

Paulo Rogerio Nunes

Paulo Rogério Nunes, Co-producer

Rogério guided the film's production through his role as founder and Executive Director of the Insituto de Mídia Étnica. He's extremely well connected in both the indie media and black movements of Bahia. midiaetnica[at]yahoo.com.br

Gregory Swingle

Greg Swingle, Executive Producer and Volunteer Videographer

Since our first scout in August of 2004, Greg was one of our principal camera operators. He's also donated a lot of his time and video know-how to each of the groups involved. www.gregswingle.com | greg[at]bigwonderful.com

Keiko Tamura

Keiko Tamura, Research Coordinator

Taking time from her busy schedule as a production coordinator in New York City, Keiko enriched the project with valuable contacts and information. She's driven by her love for the children and staff at Circo Picolino. keiktamura[at]gmail.com

Andre Santana

André Santana, Line Producer

André Santana is a journalist and the Director of Communications at the Instituto de Mídia Étnica. André played a critical part in for the project - covering Circo Picolino's most important annual performances for us. He also covers press-related issues in Brazil alosafacom[at]yahoo.com.br

Judy Durkin

Judy Durkin, Volunteer Translator and Video Trainer

Judy was raised between the US and Brazil and she played a central role in the video workshops at Beje Eró. She also conducted legal research on behalf of the project. jbdurkin[at]gmail.com

Bill Delano

Bill Delano, Volunteer Videographer and Video Trainer

Bill is an experienced documentary filmmaker who loves empowering others with the ability to share their own stories using today's newest technologies. He shot some of the film and led a video training workshop with kids at Bejê Eró. Bill's website.

Jussara Valim

Jussara Valim, Translator and Guide

During our scout in August, 2004, Jussara was both our translator and local expert in Bahia.

Andrew Callard

Andrew Callard, Researcher and Interviewer

Passionate about investigating musical traditions in Bahia, Andrew conducted most of the interviews we taped in our 2004 scout. He is a high-school teacher and professional musician living in Washington DC.

Andrew Taray

Andy Taray, Design

Andy Taray is a talented designer based in Akron, Ohio. He developed the much-celebrated logo and visual identity for the project. Andy's website.

Jason Garber

Jason Garber, Podcast and Website Developer

Jason is a web titan, photographer and musician. He's helped the project embrace the incredible opportunities that new internet technologies provide. He's a great friend to have on the front lines of the global media revolution. jason[at]sixtwothree.org



The Making of Rhythmic Uprising:

From 2004 to 2008, we maintained a production diary in the form of fun-loving video podcasts. Included here are stories behind how we made the film and the relationships we established with each of the organizations involved. By the end of filming, we were able to give each organization the tools to make their own videos: a computer and digital video camera. Here are those videos in chronological order:



The Production Companies

Benjamin Watkins

Rhythmic Uprising is a Brazil-USA coproduction. Big Wonderful Inc. is a small video production company led by Rhythmic Uprising's Director Benjamin Watkins in the United States.

Eliciana Santos do Nascimento

Candace Cine & Video is a production company based in Brazil led by Rhythmic Uprising's co-producer Eliciana Nascimento.

Paulo Rogerio Nunes

This film has also counted on the guidance of Bahia-based Instituto de Mídia Étnica led by Rhythmic Uprising co-producer Paulo Rogério Nunes.