During the end of May this year, I was in San Francisco filming Carnaval.
I loooooove Carnaval!
Now, to begin this journey, I will have to talk about my motives in traveling to San Francisco. My enthusiasm was spread between visiting my friend Mariko Drew, filming a short documentary and seeing some of the beautiful sights I always admired in movies.
Mariko moved back to her hometown after spending 6 years in NY. We met in 2007 when we were both working at a public access television station in Manhattan. She became my friend almost instantly, especially after teaching me the basic step of Samba!
Sometimes I really miss our hangouts. Most of them were around dancing. From going to classes, to moving at the club or the park, not to mention our impromptu partner dancing in the supermarket line or on the street.
Mariko began dancing at nine years old when she received a four-year scholarship to the San Francisco Ballet. Growing up in a house of musicians and artists, she absorbed the local jazz, experimental, punk and hip hop scenes of the early ‘80s and ‘90s, and was influenced by her roots in the Mission and the larger Bay Area. Studying capoeira took her to Brazil where she started dancing samba. Upon return she joined the youth drum and dance ensemble Loco Bloco where she began performing, creating choreography and teaching. She then moved to New York City in 2005 and danced with Danielle Lima’s samba company Brasileirando.
When Mariko moved back to San Francisco last year, I promised her I would come visit soon. One day she called and mentioned her participation with Fogo Na Roupa Brazilian Carnaval Dance and Percussion Company for this years Carnaval. I thought, what a perfect way to visit and learn about San Francisco culture, if I went there and shot a short documentary piece about the group and Mariko’s experience with them.
My idea was far from perfect.
After loosing my job of five years in February, I thought I needed to make my reel more current to find work. So I bought a new Canon 60D and a Zoom H4N audio recorder (no more savings!!). I took a class to learn how to use the equipment, did some tests with the camera and audio recorder and that’s it. I was “ready” to film.
California is chill, relax, enjoying your time with friends and family…
In other words, it was very hard scheduling to meet with people for interviews, of course this was also due to their Carnaval preparations. Surely, the short length of my trip together with my mixed intentions of sightseeing and shooting wasn’t the best. I set myself up for a bumpy road.
Just to enumerate, I shot interviews, ate a lot of tacos and tamales in the Mission, bought some albums, shot rehearsals, helped Mariko with her costume, shot Carnaval day, bought some expensive jasmine white tea in Chinatown and didn’t visit the Golden Gate Bridge.
But, I did get a tour of Hunters Point. Here’s a video (shot with my phone) of local friend Revery Barnes about pollution in the area.
Revery Barnes about Hunters Point from Diana Quiñones Rivera on Vimeo.
Going back to filming, in addition to not getting all the interviews, I had some audio issues and was not happy with my compositions because the lens I got for the camera wasn’t wide enough (Canon EF-S 18mm - 135mm F/3.5-5.6 IS Lens). Do I sound super distressed?
Now writing about it all, I feel very relieved.
As a result of my experience in San Francisco, I had doubts about filming documentaries in this manner. Furthermore, my need and desire for collaboration with other artists has greatly increased. I keep telling people around me, it’s easy to just say I want to shoot something and I just go and do everything myself. Certainly, if I relied on a crew, I would go out to shoot only when I was more ready. Subsequently, any film made out of a collaboration might have a better perspective and grasp on a subject that a sole individual might not have.
With this in mind, I asked Mariko to do two more interviews that I wasn’t able to capture during my trip and I also asked her to be involved in the edit of the film. I’ve learned having the input and involvement of a local is key and also fair to the process of documenting the group’s story.
'Fogo na Roupa' documentary will be around 15 minutes in length and will incorporate Carnaval footage and interviews plus material about Fogo na Roupa's founder, Carlos Aceituno (April 9, 1961-September 27, 2006).
On a really positive note, the happiest I found myself during this process was while filming the dancers displaying there inner-selves through movement. I felt an intense rush and goosebumps all over as I heard the drums play in conjunction with the amazing choreography by Alicia Brooker and Tanya Leake. Yes! I still love filming dance!
Many thanks to Mariko Drew, Ki Won Yoon, Jose Rivera, Metzi Henriquez, Alicia Brooker, Tanya Leake, Jose Carrasco, Revery Barnes and Camila Nieves for being so sweet, generous, helpful and cooperative during my stay in Cali.
For now, I leave you with photos (by Ki Won Yoon and myself) and a glimpse of footage I captured of Fogo na Roupa. Stay connected for more clips and information on the progress of this project. If you have any ideas, suggestions or questions, please feel free to contact me at email@example.com.
Thanks for your support!
View Carnaval photos
View the Teaser Trailer for Fogo na Roupa documentary
Fogo na Roupa - Teaser Trailer from Diana Quiñones Rivera on Vimeo.