Baobab Flowers: Documentary Discusses Racial Inequality in Education; Production in Philadelphia and Brazil
By Lechelle Barron
Gabriela Watson Aurazo, a Master of Fine Arts candidate at Temple University, started a Kickstarter campaign last month to help fund the expenses to complete her second documentary Baobab Flowers in Philadelphia and São Paulo. The completion of this project will mean the fulfillment of her degree.
“There are two important things in the documentary that I want to develop, the role of Black women being leaders in Black communities, and the role of black women in our society, and how we are going to help our community to get out of the level of poverty that we are in on a global level,” said Watson Aurazo. “So we are now in a moment that we really need to start talking much more about the important contribution of Black women in our society, and Black women have a huge impact on culture in the Black community and in the White community too.”
Baobab Flowers, is a documentary that shadows the lives of Priscila Dias Carlos in São Paulo and Storm Foreman (Nyanza Bandele) in Philadelphia, two Black women educators who live in two different worlds, but have similar challenges as teachers trying to overcome the racial inequalities in the educational system. “When I did the first interview with Priscila in São Paulo, it was just for a short piece, she spoke about her perception of the educational system in Brazil, and she always tries to incorporate topics related to the Afro-Brazilian issues such as poverty, socioeconomic disparity, and racism, in Brazil it’s very hard to address these topics, because we don’t have a curriculum for schools to teach African and Afro-Brazilian history so she goes through battles with the administrators because she tries to teach in a different way, it’s so sad to see that she doesn’t have the support that she needs at the school, I realized that she had a lot of great insight that needed to be heard and it was worth it to make a longer piece, so when I saw that potential I started looking for a teacher in Philadelphia to make a comparison,” said Watson Aurazo.
“When I interviewed Nyanza I saw a lot of potential again, they have so many similarities as black women teachers, they are single mothers, and they are both trying to make a change in the way they teach not only in a school, but also in their communities, they are so dedicated to that, and I thought they were perfect for telling these stories,” said Watson Aurazo. “They really have a special connection with their students, and it goes beyond the school, for some of the students they are a role model and give them the support that they are missing at home.”
As the film’s director, Gabriela is a Brazilian of Afro-Peruvian descent, and has a personal connection to these stories. Her educational experiences growing up in São Paulo have had an influence on the angle she has chosen for this film project. “I remember throughout my whole life that I studied in private school I was one of the few black students in the classroom, I felt very lonely in some ways, I didn’t feel like I could have friends to connect with, other Afro-descendants to interact with in classes, sometimes even the Afro-descendants don’t want to connect with each other because of the internalized racism in our community,” she said.
“I remember being bullied and the students would tell other students not to lend me materials, because I was Black, the students would say, “don’t let her use your pen, don’t let her use your books because she’s black”, I remember my parents going to the school to talk to the administrators and professors but the administrators didn’t do anything, they would pretty much just say, “oh, they didn’t mean it that bad, we will talk to them”, and that was it, so I see my life looking at it in perspective I just see that having access to education was key for me to succeed in terms of being accepted and showed me how much an education impacts the progress and advancement of black people in Brazil, also I was trying to understand the African American community and at the same time share my culture, a piece that speaks about both realities,” she adds.
This documentary is currently being filmed in two locations Philadelphia in the United States and São Paulo in Brazil. Gabriela is working with two crews at both locations, but the Kickstarter campaign will help pay for the production, traveling and transportation expenses mostly in Philadelphia. “The more funding that I get the best I can do, I can hire specialized people to work with me, an editor, musicians, a studio to record the sound and get the best quality, and all these things that are going to have an impact on the final project,” said Watson Aurazo. “I plan for it to be released in February 2017, once the documentary is done, we will plan an outreach campaign to screen the film in the communities involved, film festivals, universities, and community screenings,” she said. “This is another project, it’s not only about making a film, but making this film to inspire change, to inspire discussion, and to highlight things that people don’t really talk about,” she added.
Donations on the Kickstarter campaign can be made at: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1787459004/baobab-flowers-documentary and ends July 9, but donations towards the Baobab Flowers film project can also be made on the film’s website at http://www.baobabflowersfilm.com/ with a credit card or through PayPal.
For more information go to: www.facebook.com/baobabflowersfilm.