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In the Mayor’s Footsteps: Brazil cover image

In the Mayor’s Footsteps: Brazil 2011


Distributed by Bullfrog Films, PO Box 149, Oley, PA 19547; 800-543-FROG (3764)
Produced by Luciana Burlamaqui
Directed by Steve Bradshaw
DVD, color, 26 min., Portuguese, and Spanish with English subtitles

Sr. High-General Adult
Child Development, Children, Domestic Violence, Education, Latin American Studies, Political Science, Sociology

Date Entered: 07/13/2012

Reviewed by Wendy Highby, University of Northern Colorado

In the Mayor’s Footsteps: Brazil is a travelogue with a mission. Director Steve Bradshaw follows Mayor Amilcar Huancahurai, leader of the Huamanga province of Peru, as he journeys to Brazil in search of ways to improve the developmental health of the children of his province. The Mayor is an unusual figure, a politician who puts children first. He intends to discover how governments can intervene, via policies and programs, to enhance child development. The Mayor is concerned about children’s exposure to violence and poverty and he seeks innovative programs designed to create positive change.

The documentary begins by considering the importance of the cultural context. The Mayor’s first destination is São Luis. There he participates in an Afro-Catholic celebration, based in the Mina tradition, which honors childhood as holy. He interviews an 11-year-old boy who will be “emperor” for the year and a 9-year-old girl who will be honored as the “empress.” The girl’s mother, an anthropologist, affirms the importance of cultural structures that value the education of children.

The Mayor consults two academic experts in child development. He briefly interviews Dr. Jack Shonkoff, a pediatrician and director of Harvard’s Center on the Developing Child. Dr. Shonkoff explains that children’s brains are uniquely vulnerable to violence and that foundations of behavior are built in the early years. Also, the Mayor converses with Dr. Evelyn Eisenstein, a professor of pediatrics at the State University at Rio de Janeiro; she teaches him that stress negatively affects the cognition of children. The Mayor and Dr. Eisenstein both agree that they want to see more public policy that supports children’s rights.

The Mayor finds exemplary educational programs on his journey. In the fishing village of Guarapiranga, a state school provides a ballet program for its students. In Aracoiaba, Ceará, the Mayor encounters a play center with a special playground where the children learn cooperative skills and group socialization. And in the Complexo de Mare favela in northern Rio, the Mayor visits the Project Uere School founded by Yvonne Bezerra de Mello. This innovative school emphasizes active participatory learning and leadership skills.

The documentary provides the political and public policy context when it films the Mayor speaking to a family who explain that the state provides a stipend, the Bolsa Familia program, to pay for school supplies and uniforms. The Mayor meets with the Mayor of Aracoiaba, Marilene Campelo Nogueira. The two mayors share a common mission, to “effect change by starting young.” In conclusion, the Mayor travels to Brazil’s government center, Brasília. He speaks to the new Human Rights Minister, Maria do Rosário Nunes. She acknowledges that the scope of the problem is vast. There are approximately 20 million children from the ages 0-6 in Brazil, and most of them are poor. The film ends with the Mayor resolving to rescue the victims of social, political, and family violence in his province.

The Mayor is a positive role model because of his unshakeable resolve to break the cycle of violence. His intent to shape public policy to create safe, loving, and nurturing environments for children is laudable. The DVD supports curriculum in family studies, policy studies, social work, and education. The documentary would be helpful to those with an interest in the provision of social services to children and families; it is particularly recommended viewing for those who are concerned about public policy with regard to children’s rights and healthy development.