Days before Brazilians mark the second anniversary of the unsolved murder of the black politician Marielle Franco, a racism row is raging over a planned television drama about her life.
Leading black voices are incensed that the creator Antonia Pellegrino, director José Padilha – creator of the Netflix series Narcos – and chief scriptwriter George Moura are all white.
Raised in Rio’s Maré favela complex, Franco was an outspoken critic of racism, sexism and police violence.
“It is irresponsible. Marielle would never agree,” said Sabrina Fidalgo, 38, a black film-maker in Rio de Janeiro, where Franco was a city councillor and rising star of leftwing politics. “Her main agenda was the inclusion of black women in all sectors of society.”
Franco and her driver Anderson Gomes were killed in a drive-by shooting on 14 March 2018. Two former police officers have been accused of her killing but are yet to stand trial. Nobody has been charged with ordering her murder.
The new series was announced on Friday by the Globo TV network, but the next day, 68 mostly black TV and film professionals signed an online statement which said: “Making fiction around a crime that is still being investigated is also violent and naturalises violent crime.”
Franco’s sister Anielle also criticised the series. “White people who don’t open doors for black people get there before us because we can’t,” she said.
Pellegrino is a successful screenwriter and feminist activist who was friends with Marielle Franco. She is in a relationship with Marcelo Freixo, a congressman who was Franco’s friend and political mentor – and whose life has also been threatened since he ran a state legislature inquiry that jailed paramilitaries.
On Sunday, Pellegrino complicated things further when she defended the choice of Padilha, saying that Brazil did not have “a Spike Lee, an Ava DuVernay”.
“I would like to ask forgiveness from people who felt offended by my declaration,” she told the Guardian on Wednesday. “Even people committed to struggle against sexism and racism make mistakes.”
The scriptwriters will be all black, she said, and the production team was always intended to be racially mixed.
“We receive this criticisms very respectfully,” Globo said in a statement. “The participation of black people in a prominent role was always a premise of this work.”