Monika Treut - Zona Norte


15 years after our award-winning documentary WARRIOR OF LIGHT, the portrait of internationally acclaimed human rights activist Yvonne Bezerra de Mello and her work with street kids in Rio, ZONA NORTE is investigating the development and sustainability of the project.

Over the years, Yvonne has developed a new pedagogy that helps children who are traumatized by violence to overcome their experiences and the resulting learning problems. The children we portrayed 15 years ago are now young adults. They report from their lives in the most dangerous favela in the north of the city. They are the living proof that an alternative pedagogy is capable to break the vicious circle of poverty and violence.


Germany 2016, 89 min, color, HD, 5.1. In Portuguese and English; with English and German subtitles. A co-production of Hyena Films and ZDF/3sat with support by Filmfoerderung Hamburg-Schleswig-Holstein GmbH. World Premiere: Berlin IFF (Panorama), February 2016.


Yvonne Bezerra de Mello // Luciana Martha // Liliane Maria França // Marcia Regina Da Silva // Christopher Gaffney // Paula Kossatz // Joice Moraes // Gisele Moraes // Gessica Moraes // Roselaine Moraes // Joselaine Morais // Pamela Moraes // Vanessa Fernandes // and the staff and the children of Projeto Uerê.


Berlinale 2016 Screenings

Official Premiere:

Thursday, Feb. 18th at 5:00pm, CineStar 7, Sony Center

Further Screenings

Saturday, Feb. 13th at 5:30pm, Cubix 7, Alexanderplatz
Sunday, Feb. 14th at 3:15 Uhr, CineStar 3, Sony Center
Friday, Feb. 19th at 12 noon, CineStar 7, Sony Center


Yvonne Bezerra de Mello

You have visited Projeto Uerê several times in the last 15 years. Why was it important for you to document the work of Yvonne Bezerra de Mello again?

My film WARRIOR OF LIGHT was made in 2001 and portrayed Yvonne Bezerra de Mello, the founder of the project and the beginnings of their work. The film is still shown and sometimes people make the criticism that Projeto Uerê is too dependent on its founder. They say that if Yvonne Bezerra de Mello got sick or left the project, it would not be able to survive. This has always annoyed me because over the years I could see the project growing and positioning itself more and more professionally: all the teachers and the other staff are well-trained and paid fair wages. So a sustainable structure has developed. The second reason for revisiting the project was that I was repeatedly asked what has become of the children that were portrayed in WARRIOR OF LIGHT - a question that is also very important to me.

Since the project has become very large – about 430 children are now cared for – it is almost impossible to follow the lives of the children after they have completed their training there. Many have left the favela of Maré without leaving an address. In many favelas there are no addresses in the conventional sense. Through research on social media platforms I finally managed to find all the kids we portrayed 15 years ago. In ZONA NORTE we now re-encounter them and find out that they now have jobs, they are healthy and confident and have a roof over their heads. That alone is a huge achievement, which was made possible by their education in Projeto Uerê. Particularly interesting is the fact that they now as young women are very affectionate with their own children and try to give them the attention that they themselves never received from their parents.

The project has been professionalized pedagogically. Can you briefly summarize the special method that Yvonne Bezerra de Mello has developed?

Zona Norte Yvonne The most important point is the incorporation of insights from trauma psychology into the teaching methods. Children who had traumatic experiences have problems connecting their short-term-memory with long-term-memory. This is the reason why they have problems with learning. To re-establish the connection their memory is trained in the classroom. Every day the kids are encouraged to report on their day, their most recent experiences, to stabilize the connection between long-term and short-term memory. A second important point is that the children are encouraged again and again to understand that they are not stupid, that they possess many talents and abilities. Sports, especially Capoeira, and music play an important role. For some time they have been offered violin lessons.

Playful learning is very important: the learning material is mixed and often presented as a game so that they enjoy learning. It should be noted that all the children in Uerê also attend state-funded schools, which, unfortunately, are badly organized in Brazil because the teachers are poorly-paid and the classes are too large and thus the children cannot overcome their learning difficulties. That is quite different in Projeto Uerê. There is a lot of knowledge about each child. The teachers and the staff take good personal care of each child. The staff also try to find out which children can be further supported and can go on to private schools. The costs for private schools are paid for by private or corporate donors.

Yvonne Bezerra de Mello has written a profound book about the individual steps of their method. The book was published in Brazil in 2010. It would be wonderful if this book could be translated into other languages because the method can not only help children in Brazil but also traumatized children around the world. In Germany we are experiencing the problems with refugee kids from countries like Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. They are eager to learn but certainly their experiences of war and crisis need to be taken into account and worked on. In this context, Yvonne's book, in which she summarizes her experiences of 30 years of working with street and slum children, is an excellent foundation.

zona norte zona norte

A further aspect of the professionalization is the financing of the project. How is it organized?

The project finances itself solely by donations. They come from international and Brazilian private donors as well as from some foundations and companies. It requires a lot of work behind the scenes to keep the sponsors and to provide them with material.

How difficult is it for the project – considering to the civil-war-like conditions in the favelas – to offer the children a safe space?

Zona Norte Soldier Unfortunately, for the inhabitants of the favelas the image of soldiers in the streets, their fingers on the trigger of their machine guns, has become commonplace. There are shootouts between drug gangs - which are still inside the favela, because they did not get scared away by the military – and the soldiers, who are afraid because they are not familiar with the favela. That’s a dangerous mix. There have been situations where the military and drug gangs were fighting right at the doors of Projeto Uerê. The children have practised for such an eventuality and know that they have to throw themselves on the floor. The walls are not very thick, so that the bullets can go through. But of course the kids cannot be fully protected. Many people have been killed in the favelas. Such incidents are usually not solved, because the lives of slum-dwellers hardly count and the police does little investigating: <<>stray bullets are usually cited as the cause of death. Many children are injured while playing on the streets. That's just the sad reality.

How dangerous was the filming for you?

Zona Norte Soldiers There was a situation in which our driver refused to stop. The military had just begun to move and I wanted to shoot the commotion. Our driver was upset when we got out of the car. In retrospect, I realized that he was right, because it was very dangerous. At any moment a gunfight could have started and we would have been right in the middle. We had official permission to film the military because we tried to interview one of their representatives. It took a while but we managed. By then we were cleared as an official foreign team.

Overall in the favela, we were relatively safe, because every day when we passed the entrance of the favela the military announced us by radioing all units. The drug dealers also knew about us. They are anyway very attentive and register immediately when strangers intrude into their territory. We had to ask the young guys who sit at the roadside and work for drug gangs to give us shooting permissions in a particular area. Altough once we got trapped in a very narrow part of the favela, turned at a corner and suddenly we had two drug dealers in front of the camera. Fortunately we were lucky and the situation did not escalate. Ironically, it was more dangerous in the rich southern zone of the city: on the last day of shooting we were attacked by a crackhead in Flamengo Park. He pointed his gun at us and we quickly handed him our mobile phones and backpacks. Sadly, every inhabitant of Rio is used to this kind of experience.

Zona Norte Sisters

Yvonne Bezerra de Mello has often been attacked for her work in Brazil. How has she managed to finally be recognized?

Brazil has realized that there is a shortage of skilled workers and has searched for the reasons. There are big problems in the public schools. Especially in poor regions of Brazil the schools are poorly equipped and the children can hardly overcome their difficulties with learning. Yvonne has prominently represented her project over so many years: she has given interviews and has written articles and finally gained a lot of respect. It was finally noted that the work of Projeto Uerê has succeeded. Principals of state-funded schools came to Yvonne to ask for help. So it happened that a few years ago the mayor of Rio commissioned Yvonne to educate public-school teachers in the state of Rio. Later, she was also invited to teach in other areas of Brazil as far as the Amazon region. Yvonne also won several awards in Rio for the best social project. Projeto Uerê’s achievements are now recognized. This does not mean that Yvonne is loved by the so-called elite, but it has been recognized that her work makes a huge difference in educating children in areas of crisis.

Zona Norte Sisters

How are the Olympic Games affecting Rio?

The Olympics have a devastating impact on Rio. The inhabitants of Rio were originally predominantly in favour of the games – they were promised a lot of advantages. For example, that public transport, especially the bus and the subway systems, were to be expanded. Greater Rio has a chaotic transport situation: the few major roads are constantly choked by massive traffic jams. So far, the improvement of public transport has not yet taken place. Many residents were evicted from their neighborhoods where sports facilities were built. Some favelas were brutally torn down in the face of the enduring protest of their residents. In the favela Vila Autódromo, which has now been completely destroyed, residents stayed there to the bitter end. But ultimately everything was nuked. Even the middle class suffers. Meanwhile, rents are so high that even the middle class can no longer afford apartments in central Rio. Real-estate speculation sky-rocketed. The only winners are speculators and construction companies. The majority of the population gains very little from the Olympics.

In the film, scientist Christopher Gaffney explains that Brazilian society also has a positive, subversive way to deal with the outcome of this situation?

Zona Norte Christopher Gaffney Yes, it is amazing that in spite of the repression and the harsh living conditions, especially in the favelas of Rio, there are many projects that work with great warmth and great commitment. In particular, Projeto Uerê gives us hope that eventually things will turn for the better.


More info about PROJETO UERÊ:


Yvonne Bezerra de Mello
Luciana Martha
Liliane Maria França
Marcia Regina Da Silva
Cristina Deane
Ozael Barboza da Silva
Eliane Conceiçao de Lima
Eurides Alves Dias
Paula Kossatz
Ayrton Secundino
Christopher Gaffney
Major Kruchak
Vanessa Fernandes
Jessica Verissimo Nunes
Gisele Moraes
Guessica Moraes
Roselaine Moraes
Joice Moraes
Joselaine Moraes
Pamela Moraes
Raquel Cassimiro de Silva
und den Kinder und Mitarbeitern von Projeto Uerê

kamera Bernd Meiners
originalton Tatiana Coelho
regieassistenz & produktionsleitung rio Ludmila Curi
regieassistenz Debora Guimarães
fahrer Christiano Stixas Peruida, Luiz Fabio M. Andrade
produktionskoordination rio Arndt Röskens, Zipper Producoes
filmgeschäftsführung Madeleine Dewald
büro hyena films Sabine Linz
schnitt Margot Neubert-Maric
schnittassistenz Marianne von Deutsch
original musik Christian
übersetzung Leda Lajewski, Mike Trupiano
motion design & artwork OLIVER LAMMERT, MADELEINE DEWALD
sound design Clemens Endress
soundmix Sascha Heiny, Loft Studios
colour matching Martin Heckmann
postproduction supervisor Roland Musolff
rechtsberatung Christian Füllgraf
redaktion Daniel Schössler
buch, regie & produktion Monika Treut

Privatarchiv Yvonne Bezerra de Mello und Projeto Uerê

EVICTED, video von Paula Kossatz 2014

music and lyrics by Ugo de Souza
performed by Ugo de Souza

Eu sou favela
music and lyrics by Sergio Mosca & Noca da Portela
courtesy of Warner chappell
music recording Cesar Fadel   voice Aline Gonçalves   Diogão Pereira   guitar Leandro Luiz Pereira   choir Anastácia Monteiro   Dani Vilela   Juliana Pagung
pandeiro e cuíca Chicão

herzlichen dank an
alle MitarbeiterInnen und Kinder von Projeto Uerê   Marco Altberg   Ludmila Curi   Christopher Gaffney   Ernst Ganzert   Gisela Groenewold   Jan-Groenewold-Stiftung   Annie Hasemanns   Paula Kossatz   Andrea Löfgren   Isabelle Löfgren   Yvonne Bezerra de Mello & Luciana Martha   Elfi Mikesch   Colin Richardson   Arndt Röskens   Vincent Rosenblatt   Christian Weller   Karin Wyler   TV Zero: Roberto Berliner & Rodrigo Letier

mit freundlicher Unterstützung der
filmförderung hamburg schleswig-holstein GmbH
produziert von Hyena Films mit ZDF/3sat

© Hyena Films, Hamburg 2016