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I was talking with a friend about how much we love interviews.  I love giving interviews because basically I don’t really answer what people want me to answer, I just think by myself, it’s like a visit to the psychologist, talking. I learn about myself giving interviews because it’s the only moment I get to really take time to think about what I’m doing almost. I construct my ideas during interviews.

What’s your name and what do you do?

My real name is Mathieu. I started to use the name Vincent Moon about ten years ago. I come from photography and I’m from Paris. I guess the first time I was in a collective exhibition I used the name Vincent Moon because I was ashamed of putting my name on the wall alongside my photos. I was ashamed of what I was doing. I guess all my work is based on this idea of extreme hate against myself. I didn’t like myself then and I still struggle with myself now, that’s a very simple thing. So I took the name Vincent Moon that comes from a story by Jorge Luis Borges. Vincent Moon is a traitor and an evil character, he’s a double character.

What do you do now?

I’m learning about the world, travelling. Usually I say that I’m a film maker but especially this month when people have been asking what I’m doing now, I say that I travel, and that I have a good pretext to travel because I make films about music all over the world, but my real aim is to know more, to learn and to change into a better person I guess.

Why music?

I think I’m obsessed about music. I don’t know anything about music; I mean I don’t understand how it’s made. And I think I have a reflection, a big question for everybody and all the young people growing and trying to understand what they are doing here, you can have access to all sorts of information but I like the idea that you must struggle with what you don’t want to know, what sort of information you don’t know or don’t want to reach. So I like to play with this idea and turn it around.

So I have no idea how music is made, like someone playing the guitar, I have no idea how this is done, and I don’t want to know.  So each time a friend of mine, a musician, tries to explain something to me, I tell them they’re breaking the magic of it for me. People making music is like magic, I think that musicians are like magicians and I’m fascinated by this. When you know how they do it it’s not as beautiful any more.

What music interests you most?

I got interested in music through going to tons of live shows in Paris. If you ask me which genre I like, I’ll say live. I come more from an Indy rock background but I’ll now switch between genres, especially now that I’m travelling in non-English speaking countries, I’m discovering about sounds that I never knew before and I get excited about this. The beauty is when I’ll listen to something and have a first reaction thinking what is this? But I have this only more and more rarely. And I have the same feeling with cinema. I hope my films are like this; they are extremely simple and they are sort of between many things, and people are like “What is this?”

What do you make of Rio?

It’s very interesting because I went to São Paulo before and I’m very happy that I did, there is a lot to learn about how cities evolve and I think that there is a lot to compare between the two. I loved São Paulo and found an incredible type of energy there, very rare in fact, that I have never found anywhere in the world before.

Rio is much more conservative. It’s a very beautiful place and a very touristic place, but like any such place it’s very conservative, and therefore it’s very hard to make things happen in a creative way in such a place, the walls are very thick and you can’t really move around much.

I love cities, I’m an urban guy, I love to see how things grow, and São Paulo doesn’t have any limits, it just expands and grows and grows. It’s total chaos without any limits, you can always find a place to do something.

I was in Poland recently and I went to Krakow and Warsaw. It’s a very interesting story: before World War II Warsaw and Krakow were the two first cities and extremely old very beautiful places. Then in the War Warsaw was completely razed, because of the Warsaw uprising they destroyed it. At same time Krakow didn’t receive any bombs, it was preserved. Nowadays you go there and you see Krakow, it’s Disneyland, extremely preserved and there’s nothing happening. You go to Warsaw and it’s the most vibrant space I’ve seen in such a long time. This says so much about how history evolves and how destruction can even be a good thing.

So if the question for the 20th century was how to conserve, the question for me now is how to destroy. Going through a terrible thing is often the key to building a community, like a story about an area of Amsterdam that was very poor and very violent and forgotten by the authorities for many years. One day a plane crashed and killed hundreds of people. From that day a community was formed. Here was a dramatic event that joined the whole community and changed the whole area.

What is culture? Is it possible to explain the word culture?

Erm, well. It’s hard for me to think about what it’s not. Everything is culture.

I guess culture is what makes us different from each other also, and I’m just worried that we’re just witnessing the disappearance of a lot of culture and the emergence of just one main culture all around. I mean this gas station where we are looks like any other gas station in the world. It freaks me out a bit. I’m interested in multiculturalism and what this means. I think it has to do with preservation and destruction. I think preservation can harm culture a lot by trying to put it in a box.

Vincent Moon is an independent filmaker.

After one of the worst, most tense weeks in recent years, Rio de Janeiro breathed a sigh of relief when police and troops took over the huge Complexo do Alemão favela complex without a confrontation on Sunday morning. What was needed was a respite from the stress and media overload of police, tanks, dumb reporters in flak jackets and images of burning vehicles.

So I headed down with MC and radio producer Sistah to the  Meeting of Favelas Brazil’s number one favela graffiti jam that unites writers, artists, friends and rappers from across the city and even the country.

Meeting of Favelas is in its 5th edition and always takes place in Vila Operária in Caxias in the Baixada Fluminense district. The community was full of artists painting along the steep streets and in a football court. All an artist has to do is get permission from the house owner and they can paint.

As ever the favela showed that it has a form of lifestyle that has much to offer. Music and entertainment was provided courtesy of the DJs and presenters of the Batalha do Real, Rio’s traditional and best MC battle event. Rio smiles again! Thank you to organiser Kajaman and his team and of course the people and house owners of Vila Operária who gave over their houses for this public art event!!

Early evening and people are making their way home after work in Nova Olinda, a small hilltop town in the semi-arid sertão of Northeast Brazil. Nova Olinda lies in the Chapada do Araripe, a green oasis in vast plains of dry scrub in a region famed for its myths, religion, natural beauty and fossils. Out of nowhere, loudspeakers high on a radio mast above an old town house begin to broadcast the eerie spaghetti twangs of Ennio Morricone. What’s going on?

Inside the restored house, kids in red trousers and white shorts play on swings in a courtyard. Older adolescents in the same uniforms walk between rooms that hold a DVD library, a book library, a graphic novel library, a radio station, a music studio, a TV production suite and a theatre. At the entrance to the house is a museum containing traditional northeastern and ancient indigenous artefacts.

Ideo (in photo below) the museum manager, is  just 13!

The house is part of a project called the Fundação Casa Grande – Memorial do Homem Kariri a cultural institute staffed and organised by children and young people. It was set up in 1992, when Alemberg, a musician and researcher, began to restore the house (that belonged to his grandfather) in order to store a collection of archaeological pieces. Alemberg’s idea was to show people that Brazilian history dated back further than just the Portuguese. As he set about work on the house with his wife, curious children began to participate in the process.

So begins what Alemberg, an Ashoka fellow and Avina leader, calls “a unique experience: a foundation, a museum, and a cultural centre all directed by children”. I call it a brilliant example of Brazilian creativity and sparkle. In addition to this the foundation has set up a cooperative of popular hostels managed by the kids’ parents. For fifty Reais (about 18 pounds) guests can rent rooms in their houses where they will receive full board with three meals a day. I spent several days here hanging out, learning about the foundation and visiting the region.

October 13th, 2010

Heroes of the Caatinga

Salgueiro, Pernambuco is a fast growing town in Northeast Brazil’s central Sertão, a semi-arid region known in English as ‘the backlands’. The Sertão has been home to some of the country’s most legendary rebels, such as the bandit Lampião and the mystic Antônio Conselheiro. These characters roamed the caatinga, the parched, spindly scrub that covers the region,  some of the harshest territory in the continent. The Memorial do Couro is a museum dedicated to the vaqueiros (cowboys) that make their lives in this country today featuring photos by Geyson Magno.

As it’s a region that is not within everyone’s reach here are some of Gerson’s pictures to give an idea of the aesthetic of such people, defined above all by their tenacity and ability to resist in difficult social and environmental conditions.

The Guarani Kaiowá are one of Brazil’s most populous indigenous people. Kaiowá means forest people, except that they have no forest any more. It has all been cut down. They have been cleared off their lands in Mato Grosso do Sul state in successive waves, and dumped to fend for themselves in tiny, overcrowded reserves. The battle for space in Mato Grosso do Sul is tough. Land in the area is earmarked for lucrative sugar cane production. Below Seu Nelson and Dona Antonia stand between fields of cane planted on ancestral land.

The 1988 Brazilian constitution guaranteed Brazilian Indian land rights, and in the 1990s small groups of Kaiowá families began to leave their reserves to reoccupy their ancestral lands. This tactic, although painful and slow, has resulted in some success, and a number of traditional territories have been reoccupied. 35 territories are still in question and throughout the state Kaiowá families are camped by the roadside in shacks covered by black plastic sheets. Above, leader Zezinho explains tactics at the Ñanderu Laranjera camp. Despite the heat and the dust, spirits are high, and Kaiowá elders pass free hours passing on traditional customs and prayers to the younger generations. Below, photo of a traditional Guaxiré festivity, held in the dark while trucks speed by in the pitch dark at speeds of up to 140km per hour.

The Kaiowá struggle has been brought to the big screen in the film Birdwatchers by Chilean-Italian director Marco Bechis that won the One World Media Award in June. For more information on the Guarani Kaiowá and how to support them, see the site of Survival International.

Trailer for Birdwatchers: