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One decade later, They (still) really don't care about them, Michael!

Updated: Sep 19, 2021

The news seems to fall from the moon concerning the precarious situation of a good part of Brazil and some districts of Rio, behind the scenes of the World Cup that opens tonight... Some reminders though.

It was in the mid-1990s that Michael Jackson decided to shoot the short film of "They Don't Care About Us" in the slums of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Salvador de Bahia, under the direction of Spike Lee.


This filming was controversial (in addition to the scandal caused by the negative interpretation of the lyrics of the song itself) and led to attempts to ban it by the Brazilian state, which was then a candidate to host the 2004 Olympic Games.


Indeed, the leaders feared (but it was the goal), that the images turned and showing precisely the reverse side of the scenery, the favelas and the poverty, can damage the image of Brazil and its chances to welcome the Games.


But what better example could Michael Jackson have found, in such a context, than to put the poor in the spotlight, and to denounce the failure of the government's policies - all without ever, as Michael's strategist is wont to do, getting lost in speeches and moral lessons.

So something had to be done... Michael Jackson was accused of having exploited the poor indigenous people and even, why not, paid the cartels to have the right to access the site and shoot his film freely.


However, all this did not prevent the Secretary of State for Industry, Commerce and Tourism, Ronaldo Cezar Coelho, from demanding to receive (dirty?) rights on the production, under the pretext of not understanding why he should facilitate a filming with necessarily negative repercussions...


However, the first ruling that banned the filming was cancelled, and if the officials were furious about this provocative artistic approach, the local public was delighted to welcome the artist and to come out of the shadows. 1500 police officers and 50 local residents, dressed as security guards, cordoned off the Dona Marta slum.


Two notorious figures are to be mentioned here.