Those of you in the English-speaking world may not realise just how massively famous Brazilian soap-opera stars have become around the world. For example Avenida Brasil broke records in 2012 after being sold by Rede Globo (Globo Network) to 130 countries and reaching 50 million viewers.
While Brazilian soaps often glamourise ostentatious consumerism, in 2013 the soap opera Joia Rara (Rare Jewel) launched; set in 1940s Rio de Janeiro, its plot centred around Buddhism, compassion, forgiveness and redemption — an incredible foundation for a genre not commonly associated with ethics, spirituality or more philosophical issues.
Now complementing the ethos of Joia Rara is the new tragic-comedy Entre Abelhas (Amongst Bees), which launched last week (30th April) to huge critical acclaim. The film stars Fábio Porchat, one of Brazil’s biggest comedians, who co-produced and co-wrote the film with director Ian SBF, a long-time collaborator.
While Porchat’s comedy in the past has been manic, high-octane and absurdist, Entre Abelhas represented a huge risk for him and the team behind it, since it pushes him into entirely new territory — it being a deeply philosophical film which does not spoon-feed the audience with a predictable or painting-by-numbers story line, but which — like Donnie Darko — leaves the audience questioning what they have watched and what it all means.
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The reason I am writing about a film many of you may well not be able to see is that I would like to reflect on the power that comedy has — when done intelligently — to change the mindsets and thinking of whole nations.
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San DiegoIn the case of Entre Abelhas, the name of the film came from Ian SBF in relation to a phenomenon that greatly intrigued him — the disappearance of bees. The plot of the film centres around Bruno (played by Porchat), who gradually loses the ability to see and hear the people around him. It is an emotionally powerful metaphor: As Porchat explained in a recent interview, in our society today it is as if people are living like bees in a colony, seeing their fellow beings disappear, but not knowing why.
In his weekly column for Estad**ão, Porchat wrote: “More and more we are living in a society where acknowledging others is becoming rare. We live our lives trapped in our own world without even realising that there are other worlds around.”
Porchat is calling on us to pay more attention to others, and to stop being lost in our technology. As he explains: “Our worst enemies are those words which have not been spoken but which accumulate in our heads and end up mixing and forming thoughts which should not be there.”
It is clear from the social media buzz in Brazil that Entre Abelhas has had a huge psychological and philosophical impact on people, even for those who did not quite make the connection between people and bees during the film itself.
As well as contemplating the film though, Porchat — with his 5.3 million Twitter followers (to give you an idea of Porchat’s popularity, Ricky Gervais has 7.9 million) — has also been spreading the message about the importance of bees to life, and has been directing people to the excellent Brazilian project Sem Abelhas Sem Alimento (Without Bees Without Food), encouraging his fans to learn more about this deeply important ecological crisis.
This is amazing. So in this article, I wanted to praise Porchat, Ian SBF and the entire Entre Abelhas team and reflect on the fact that, in addition to the extraordinary power of brands to effect transformative change in society, there is a huge opportunity to team up with our most creative and ridiculously funny people to co-create paradigm-shifting films, programmes and other media, which can impact the most profound levels of our consciousness.
Entre Abelhas does not preach; it does not make any attempt to force its doctrine upon us. Its power comes in the way in which it opens its arms to us — inviting us in to contemplate the profound questions it raises and facilitating a national, and hopefully soon a global dialogue, on how we can truly live together, sustainably, in harmony with nature and in harmony with ourselves.