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In collaboration with SCATV and Tufts University, “Brazil Meets Brazil,” will debut in November 2023 on “Dead Air Live”

(Somerville Wire) – A team of local Brazilian high school and Tufts University students are working with Somerville Community Access Television and Tufts Professor Claudia Mattos Avolese to deliver “Brazil Meets Brazil.” The 35-minute film profiles five local Brazilian artists: Raquel Fornasaro, Julia Csekö, Dinorá Justice, and Margarette Mattos. And ahead of its debut, the filmmakers found joy in deepening their ties to the community they intend to highlight.

“As an immigrant, it’s challenging to break out of your immediate connections, especially for those immigrating from rural areas,” said Ana Lindo, the film’s production manager and a board member of Somerville Media Center (home of SCATV) who helped secure the grant for the film. “Providing these students with the opportunity to meet artists at their houses and to learn about their art—they were amazed,” she said. Lindo noted the project took students to museums they had never visited: the Museum of Fine Arts and the Isabella Stuart Gardner among them. “Some of them told me they thought they could never meet Brazilian artists in Somerville,” Lindo said.

One artist featured in the film, Raquel Fornasaro, immigrated to the United States from São Paulo, Brazil, nearly two decades ago. Fornasaro is an accomplished painter with a 15-year career. “As an immigrant, I don’t quite fit into either country. So I have the ability to inject each cultural landscape with the other, and pass along what I like to my children.” Fornasaro has a passion for landscape art and urban greenery, particularly as a counterpoint to capitalism and the industrial forces that drive climate change. 

My work tries to bring out the positives and negatives of our economy, our environment, and considers who benefits [from development]. When you’re making the money, you’re not worrying about families. I look at the lack of proper action from bigger companies, the delay in teaching climate change, ongoing colonialist greed and minimal care for the public. We’ve really waited for a point of no return, but I try not to be too nihilistic. That’s why the color comes into my painting, the childlike creatures, positive animations—I use elements that speak truths,” Fornasaro said.

Fornasaro explained that while she has a few Brazilian friends, the film has introduced her to a number of Brazilian artists, and that artistic connection is unique. “We dance to the same drum, we swing with the same music,” she said. “It’s nice to be part of this community in which children of my own, while younger [than those involved in the film], are often looking for other Brazilian children. They have the option now to build that connection, thrive, and keep their culture. That cheers me up personally,” she said. “Immigrants are the main thing that tethered our family to this region. They make the city richer. I’m so glad Ana invited me [to participate in the film]; it’s provided these kids with a way to present something about themselves.”

That sense of community permeates the film all the way to its inception, when Lindo served Tufts University Professor Claudia Mattos breakfast at Buddy’s Diner in East Somerville. Mattos would become a close friend of Lindo’s and her co-organizer for the “Brazil Meets Brazil” film.

But the first encounter was not a true meeting. “I saw her at Buddy’s in 2019 before she had moved to the U.S. and I didn’t know she was a professor, let alone Brazilian,” Lindo said. But three years later, a mutual friend and fellow professor at Tufts, David Guss, asked Lindo if she would be interested in meeting with a Brazilian arts professor.

“I logged into this class and saw Claudia. I emailed her after and said I was sure I had seen her at Buddy’s!” she said, laughing. “But I wanted to connect for a different documentary. One about Buddy’s, which I’m still working on!”

The two kept in touch. Lindo became an SMC board member and soon enough Mattos approached Lindo with the idea for the project. “She came to me because we’re both Brazilian,” Mattos said smiling, “and I had brought more Brazilians to the station, including her son.”

Somerville Community Access Television won a 2022 grant from Tufts’ Tisch College Community Research Center 2022 program and funded “Brazil Meets Brazil: Building Community Through Heritage in Massachusetts Museums.” It’s a Portuguese-language program through SCATV with assistance from Tufts students, all of whom are Brazilian.

A Sanctuary City, Somerville is a historical destination for Brazilian immigrants. After the Brazilian economy collapsed in the 1980s, Brazilians immigrated to the United States in search of better employment and many settled in Somerville. In the decades since, immigrants have spread out to further (and more affordable) Eastern Massachusetts cities, but in recent years Somerville has seen more Brazilian immigrants than any metropolitan area in the country, according to Global Boston.

At the end of our discussion, Fornasaro recalled the advice she passed along to the students interviewing her for the film. “Make contact. Talk to people and be involved in the community,” she said.

This article is syndicated by the Somerville Wire municipal news service—a project of the IRS 501(c)(3) tax-deductible nonprofit Somerville Media Fund.

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Ryan DiLello is the staff reporter for the Somerville Wire

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