From the first day I met 8 year old Pablo Vinicius, I knew the kid was special. He was well spoken, polite and showed leadership qualities. He was also an impressive player of Capoeira. I would see him with ACORDA Capoeira group at the Casa da Paz community center where they held their practices and a group of volunteers were teaching them English lessons. I never inquired about his background but did notice that the majority of time I did see him with Manuel the master of the Capoeira group. I just thought that maybe they were related or just close.
I had no idea of Pablo's past. He is an inspiration for many kids who have gone through similar tragedies in their life. He was born in a place called Mossoro in Rio Grande de Norte. He unfortunately never knew his father. At 5 years old he saw his mother murdered and after soon moved to Rio with his aunt Fabiana who took him in and has been raising him ever since. With her, they decided to settle in Rocinha where he still lives today. In the favela around 8 years old he started Capoeira. He is active in Judo with Instituto Reacao where he is an orange belt.
He was an active child who also participated in a theatre course where he was chosen out of 2000 candidates to be an actor in one of the episodes of 5X FAVELA made in 2010. From there he acted in a O Globo tv special called "Preamar" in 2012 and from HBO "Gonzaga-De pai para Filho" also in 2012.
Pablo has also been an actor in Rocinha's own creation of "Via Sacra" which is the recreation of Christs' life performed during "Pascoa" or Easter.
To current day, the protagonist with a sad childhood, Pablo Vinicius never could imagine, that someday he would be acting in a film with a storyline similar to his real life story. At 16 years old he was chosen to be one of the principal actors of the film "children of Bach", a co-production between Brazil and Germany. This film is now showing in Rio.
"When I arrived in Rocinha, I didn't have any kind of perspective of life, I didn't have dreams of anything. I never imagined that I would appear on television, in cinema. Things just kind of happened" remembers Pablo.
In "Children of Bach", Pablo gives life to "Fernando", a boy, like him, who lost his mother and was abandoned by his father. Fernando came to live in an institution with his older brother, "Heitor", that tried to involve Pablo in trouble and lead him down the wrong path.
"I identify a lot with Fernando. The production of the film had no idea about my history or what happened in my life. I think they chose me because they felt my truth."
"It was this fact that happened" tells German Director Ansgar Ahlers.
"When I saw him, I perceived something tragic in his eyes. When we began to read the story, he was really touched. It was a moment of a lot of emotion."
In the plot of the story, Fernando knows the German Musician Marten (Edgar Selge), who is in Brazil in search of an original sheet music of Johann Sebastian Bach, who mysteriously appeared in Minas Gerais. Marten is responsible for turning his life and his friends, around through music. The film won an award at the International Festival of Emden in Germany. The film was shot in Ouro Preto and the cities of Hamburg and Buckeburg Germany.
''It was an awesome experience. I had never been on an airplane. And Germany is very different from my reality. I live in a place where right is mixed with wrong, where you can want to change but you can't." Pablo observed.
Pablo is in equal to the first grade in high school. But his dreams go much higher. He wants to continue his studies in Cinema and performing art in Germany. Ahlers promises that he will help him.
"What I proposed is that during the tour of the film in Europe that he stays in Germany doing a crash course in English. I volunteered because he is not only talented in acting and playing (he learned how to play the Ukelele in 5 weeks for the film), but languages too. If a person wants to learn something, you have to help. Pablo deserves help." Ahlers continued.
Fabiana, who is like a mother to Pablo said she is concerned but she understands that this is a great opportunity that few in Rocinha would ever get. She is proud that he is involved in these positive activities, fighting to be somebody in life.
He is still active in Capoeira earning a blue cord (like a belt ranking). And is studying for any other opportunities that come around for him.
Foto of Fabiana, her baby Felipe being held by Pablo and Mestre Manel playing berimbau.
Pablo and Mestre Manel
We in Rocinha, are very proud of Pablo and his over coming many challenges to be a success!
Pablo with Capoeira friends and Julio at Garagem das Letras a cafe in Rocinha
Pablo looking out over Rocinha, his home.