In 2017, we spent 2 weeks with five inspirational young women from the small city of Codó in Maranhao, a North-Eastern state of Brazil as part of the AHRC GCRF project "Troubling the National Brand and Voicing Hidden Histories".
The team consisted of the five young women - Alana Cristina Alencar, Bianca Silva de Freitas, Isabela Sousa Silva, Natalia Gomes de Andrade Silva, and Yhandra Larice da Silva - Professor of Brazilian Studies Stephanie Dennison and creative practitioner Inés Soria-Turner from University of Leeds, Brazilian filmmaker and academic Professor Gilberto Sobrinho from Universidade de Campinas and Grupo Pindorama, and Viviana Santiago (Technical Manager: Gender) and several of her local teammembers from Plan International Brasil in Codó.
The team first met in June 2017. It was the first time that most of us (including the girls we working with) had met. We spent the first day and a half getting to know each other, using drama and arts activities to help build trust across the group, explore and listen to everyone's aspirations - both for themselves and for the project - and creatively discuss and prioritise some of the wider issues that we thought might inform the project.
At the heart of the process were three key questions: Who are these girls? What is it that matters most to them? What stories do they want to share and who do they want to share them with?
At the end of Day 2 Prof. Gilberto Sobrinho arrived in Codó. His role in the project was to teach the girls about the basics of filmmaking, explore with them the different ways that Brazilian identity had been portrayed in documentary films by Brazilian filmmakers in the past, and work with them to create and develop a script, production chart and focus for the girls' own film - made in collaboration with Gilberto and his professional production team back in Sao Paulo - about their lives in Codó.
The main footage captured, the whole team reviewed the footage before Gilberto returned to Campinas to pull together a first edit based on the editing script the group had agreed on.
Three months later, Prof. Sobrinho and Viviana Santiago returned to Codó, accompanied by Prof. Stephanie Dennison (Professor of Brazilian Studies and member of the Centre for World Cinemas & Digital Culture at University of Leeds) to review the first cut of the film with the group, make revision and film any missing scenes for the film, before it underwent a final edit in Sao Paulo.