May 10, 1999
Rio slum dwellers celebrate their lives on film

                  RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) -- Thousands of Rio's poor celebrated into
                  the early hours of Monday after the newly released film "Orfeu," a classic
                  tragedy inspired by their lives, was screened in their crime-infested slum.

                  In a free concert that followed, they rocked to the music of national icon
                  Caetano Veloso, who wrote the film's soundtrack of modern Brazilian rap,
                  and the afro-reggae singing of its dreadlocked star, Toni Garrido.

                  The producers of the film, a remake of the 1958 Oscar-winning classic
                  "Black Orpheus," held the screening for cheering crowds in one of Rio de
                  Janeiro's roughest favelas, or shantytowns.

                  "We were bringing a film about favelas to the cinema, now we are bringing
                  the cinema to the favelas," film director Carlos Diegues told Reuters at the
                  screening late Sunday in the northern slum neighbourhood of Vigario Geral.
                  "It's important because the people attending it recognise the characters."

                  Shot in the midst of Rio's Carnival celebrations last year, the film tells the
                  story of two lovers caught in the cross fire of drug gangs.

                  The original film by French director Marcel Camus brought world attention
                  to Rio's spectacular seaside setting as well as to the shocking poverty of its
                  shantytowns, where the dominant villains at that time were gambling

                  In Diegues' updated version, heavily-armed drug traffickers rule the favela. It
                  is the complex relationship between Garrido's character, the mythical
                  musician Orpheus, and his boyhood friend who is now the favela's vicious
                  druglord, that leads to the central tragedy.

                  Residents, who navigate the steep dirt alleyways of the favela in their
                  fantastic Carnival costumes, also have to contend with random violence from
                  a police force that is poorly equipped to fight drug gangs that are armed to

                  The films ends in a cacophony of screams, blood-stained costumes, and the
                  relentless beat of Carnival's samba music. Orpheus is stabbed and both his
                  lover and his rival are shot.

                  "I really liked the film. The images were really difficult, but real," one man in
                  his early 20s said afterward.

                  The film found particular resonance in Vigario Geral, where 21 residents
                  were gunned down and killed in 1993 by about 20 hooded attackers
                  believed to be police officers.

                  The massacre and the eventual acquittal of the policemen who had been
                  charged sparked outrage in Brazil and among international human rights

                  "It's a film made for people that believe our life could be much better,"
                  Diegues said.

                     Copyright 1999 Reuters.