Exploding Power Lines & Chariot Men

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I’m in Brazil filming a documentary about the “Chariot Men.” These carroceiros are people who earn a living by riding around the city on horse-drawn chariots, darting in and out of normal traffic, collecting garbage to sell to places that recycle. Most of them live on islands in the Rio Guaíba, next to Porto Alegre, where they work. Today we went to these islands to film. It can be a dangerous place for outsiders. Not even the local police go there. To make matters worse, various documentaries and television programs in Brazil have shed a bad light on the people that live there, so they are not very receptive to being filmed.

The main film that upsets them is a 1989 short documentary called “Isle of Flowers” (Ilha das Flores), which they show in classrooms and on TV. It’s actually not really a documentary per se, because everything is obviously pretty staged, and there are some misrepresentations. For example, the residents on the isles informed us that the movie Ilha das Flores wasn’t even filmed on Ilhas das Flores, but rather on Ilha dos Marinheiros (“Isle of Sailors”), also called Ilha Grande (“The Big Island”) which is where we filmed today.

While we were filming, the power lines above us started exploding all around us, and some of the lines fell on the ground, while they were still hot. It looked and sounded like fireworks. Luckily, no one got hurt, and luckily, I filmed most of it. I also did a couple of interviews with residents there, who explained that this has been happening a lot recently, and maintenance needs to be done on the power lines. They also had to close down a recycling plant because the neighborhood lost power. Pretty wild stuff! I love documentary filmmaking because it’s always an adventure.

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