“When I saw students occupy their schools in 2015 in Sao Paulo, when I saw the little girls in front of armed policemen, like warriors, I knew: There is hope for the future!” -Eliza Capai, Director “Espero tua (Re)volta/Your Turn”
“Espero Tua (Re)volta” (also known by its English title, “Your Turn”) is a documentary directed by Eliza Capai, a Brazilian filmmaker and documentarian, about the resistance movements led by underserved students in Sao Paulo, Brazil, as they organized and revolted to demand better public education and more social services in general. Especially key is their work against Brazil’s current president, Jair Bolsonaro. It follows the journeys of three students — Marcela Jesus, Lukas ‘Koka Penteado, and Narya Souza,– from 2015 to 2018, during which time students protested for their right to access basic necessities like affordable transportation, education, food, and housing.
On June 4, Helena Ribeiro (an English professor at Seattle Central) organized a screening of the documentary and a chat with the director at Seattle Central. Both the film and the discussion were powerful reminders of the power of students.
The many injustices faced in Sao Paulo, such as food and educational insecurity, over-policing, criminalization, and violence, disproportionately affect those in Sao Paulo who are mostly Black and low-income or working-poor. Many of them are students who depend on public transportation to commute from rural areas to the city center where they go to school and work.
The movie starts off with Koka (Lucas Penteado), a young student, poet, and artist, describes the late-2015 protest against hikes in bus fares, which soon lead to violence at the hands of the militarized police force who used rubber bullets and tear gas on the demonstrating civilians. His impassioned account of what the protesters endured while pushing back against injustice pulls you in immediately and commands attention. “For some,” he says, wryly describing the detractors of the protest, “[we are] ‘kids freaking out, trespassing and stuff. Breaking shit, smokin’ pot. Too lazy to study.’ Let’s put it this way: Some say students are the only hope. They dream of quality public education. A world of more equality.”
Koka is eventually interrupted (with kind, yet assertive, frankness) by his friend Nayara, who points out that he seems to forget that, while his version of the events is vital to the re-telling, women were especially key in shaping these historic events. The prevalence of the hashtag #FightLikeAGirl in Brazil, women-led student movements, and the first woman president of Brazil, Dilma Rousseff, who served from 2011 until her impeachment in 2016. As Nayara adamantly points out: “And a man is doing the narration? That’s just wrong!”
“Sorry!” Koka is quick to apologize.
Every scene is shot from the perspective of the students. Marcela Jesus, our third narrator, is another young woman from a student organization who introduces herself as an autonomist (an anti-authoritarian Marxist) and describes her own role in the protests. “It’s extremely important, a woman talking about the student movement.”
Throughout the film, tough questions are presented to the viewer: Will education be militarized? Will you be oppressed for fighting back? Will you be free to be yourself?. But along with these questions, scenes of young couples (many of whom are LGBTQ) and friends added an element of love and innocence to juxtapose against the sometimes brutal inhumanity with which protesters were treated. In the end, that’s what a lot of the documentary is about — love, and humanity. Capai made sure to include scenes where the students show different sides of their personalities and roles in the movement as they organize, strategize, show love and support towards each other, and express the wide range of human emotions like frustration, disappointment, and triumph.
Capai says her main focus of the film was about “trying to understand who this generation is who occupied the schools. What they dream of and what they fight for.”
“Your Turn” made its North American debut at SIFF on June 1. It won the Amnesty International Film Award and Heinrich Böll Peace Prize at the Berlin Film Festival earlier this year. While it’s not yet available online, keep an eye on other theatres and Director Eliza Capai’s social media for future opportunities to see “Your Turn.” It’s truly a must-see.