Brazilian Graffiti Fire: Pixação by Joao Wainer + Roberto T. Oliveira (Documentary Review)

“Covering buildings throughout São Paulo, pixação is a style of graffiti native to Brazil and known for its simple, angular lines. In this episode of Cool Hunting Video, we tour the city streets with Joao Wainer, photographer and co-director of a documentary on the subject, who fills us in on the culture and history.” —

Pixação is a documentary that I first caught up with when it was first screened in Paris in July in 2009 at the Cartier Foundation.  It was later to be showed in October 2009 during the 33rd International Film Festival in Sao Paulo.  This one hour plus film was directed by Joao Wainer and Roberto T. Oliveira, with commentaries by Wainer and endeavours to decipher the motivation, circumstances and environment of graffistas in Sao Paulo who have developed a unique form of graffiti in Brazil since the 80s: the pixação.

This documentary hit me with an almighty knock-down with its veracious no-game, no-powdery-poetic shots of ‘artists’ in the making, and with its powerful human testimony.  It captured raw the fierce screaming-wish to communicate, the black-painted roar of favela dwellers.  Their graffitied-letters stand straight, witnesses to their Brazilian makers.  They spell that they exist, that they want to be acknowledged … and they are going to risk their lives doing exactly that.

This is a socio-political document of the highest, purest and most honourable form.  Politics is never objective, it is the side view of the few, and in “Pixo” we have the side view of the many, those who don’t get a chance to be, only to barely survive.  The pixaçãos are the mark of a youth that has seen, and is seeing, so much stolen from it that it is left with no recognisable or immediate articulation, like so many around this globe.  So suffocated it is, but not silent.  With graffitis it vociferates, it fights back with – it has to be underlined: peaceful – colourful or B&W means.  What these young souls endure they have encapsulated into a unique iconography.

Forget Parkour and Urban Acrobatics, these guys are the sky’s fallen angels with paint vessels.  From the towering heights they climb to challenge, to feel alive, many fall and die in the process.  Joao Wainer asks: “How many artists do you know who risk their lives to do their art”.  How many do you know?  First class, must see documentary.

–Nadia Ghanem

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