When you think of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, you possibly think of the sandy beaches, clear ocean waters and sexy girls in thong bikinis. But there is more to that, a lot more. Film maker Justin Mitchell captures the escape of two young kids who use surfing as a way out of poverty.
“Rio Breaks,” co-produced by the Sundance Channel and nominated for Best Documentary at Hawaii International Film Festival, is set against those beautiful beaches, as it explores the life on top of the hill, the dwelling of poor people. It’s out of character seeing the poor families of Rio living in shanty towns on top of a mountain which overlooks the beautiful ocean, when here in the States it is the rich who want to live above the poor with the better ocean view.
Mitchell follows the young Brazilians – 13-year-old Fabio and his best friend 12-year-old Naamã, who are both infatuated with surfing the waters. However, as much happiness as surfing brings these youths, their home life brings equal amount of struggle. The boys live in Rio’s Favela do Pavão, which is controlled by one of the city’s most dangerous drug gangs.
Down at Arpoador Beach, Fabio and Naamã try their best to forget their hardships as we follow the kids along the beach, in the water looking for the perfect wave, and preparing for an upcoming surfing competition which may help the two turn into professional surfers.
You can’t help but feel the pain of Fabio and Naamã and cheer them on to do well in this film. For as young as they are, the surfers have their prioriteis in order and work very hard not to succumb to the lives of the drugs and gangs which surround them.
“Rio Breaks” is a heart warming story set in the beautiful ocean back drop. Mitchell has done a fantastic job overlaying the story of Fabio and Naamã with the passion and desire of surfers, while showing the darker side of the enviroment. Seemingly worlds away for some, “Rio Breaks” brings you close to these kids and gives you the hope in which they carry with them.