Albury filmmaker woos festival circuit

INTREPID: Dan Jackson's documentary In the Shadow of the Hill, which focuses on life in Rio's slums, is up for five AACTA Awards next month.

INTREPID: Dan Jackson's documentary In the Shadow of the Hill, which focuses on life in Rio's slums, is up for five AACTA Awards next month.

An Albury filmmaker's debut documentary has cleaned up since its June release, having been nominated for five Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts Awards and winning best documentary at the Sydney Film Festival.

Brazilians say nobody sane would choose to live in a favela, but Dan Jackson did just that, moving to Rio de Janeiro’s Rocinha to film In the Shadow of the Hill, which follows a brutal police crackdown after the city secured the World Cup and Olympics.

And rather than killing people the police make them disappear, leaving no trace of their crimes: up to 38,000 people from Rio’s slums went missing between 2007 and 2013 as part of its Orwellian-named pacification program.

The film focuses on the disappearance of a local brick layer, what caused it and what happened next. The search for him captured the heart of the city, and it turned into a citywide protest movement against police brutality.

But with both sporting events now over, Jackson’s film has taken on even more pertinence.

August’s Olympics was a shambles: low ticket sales, poor infrastructure and the Zika virus dogged the competition.

Workers were killed during the construction phase, and a human arm was found in the bay where sailing was to be held.

Brazil’s government is now embroiled in a major corruption scandal, and the nation is facing a recession and rising inflation, leaving many wondering why all those millions were spent on flash events.

Those in the film in Rocinha know the true feeling of hunger, and argue in vain why those millions were not spent on health and education.

For them, the pacification program had hopelessly failed. 

"It's a country that has so much going for it, but unfortunately there's a whole lot of corruption, and that is deep-seated corruption," Jackson said.

"Events like these provide a fantastic opportunity for corrupt politicians to embezzle millions of dollars."

Instead of solving the structural problems of inequality, Brazilian authorities jumped on the chance to send in police with guns to the slums.

Jackson questions the Olympic Committee and FIFA's supposedly apolitical stance, and argues the government created an environment for human rights violations to flourish.

"They expect local laws to be changed to suit them and their sponsors," he said.

"That’s hardly the actions of an apolitical organisation.”

In the Shadow of the Hill is available for pre-purchase through iTunes.

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