BECO from Fernanda Preto

April 7, 2011

By Barbara Goldman

© Fernanda Preto

Stilt houses above urban garbage dump on Rio Negro River, Brazil.

Fine art photographer and photojournalist Fernanda Preto recently brought attention to her work with her latest project BECO (translates to “alley”).  BECO  is a  75-minute feature-length documentary  film that focuses on a community of stilt houses on the riverside of a narrow arm of Rio Negro in downtown Manaus, Brazil, where families live  suspended over what has become a large urban dumping ground. The film is co-produced and shot by Preto and  Director and Editor Bruno Jorge. Preto also developed the subject matter and wrote the script for the film.

Preto, 32, born and raised in Brazil received her associated degree in photography and graphic design from Panamericana School of Arts in São Paulo in 2000 and graduated from Tuiuti University of Paraná in 2005 with bachelor degree in Visual Arts. She was selected by Itáu Cultural Art Institution for the Mezanino Project of Emerging Photographers in 2004.  Between  2005-2006 she participated in the exhibition Erotica – the senses in art, together with Duane Michal, Nan Goldin, Rodin, Picasso, at the Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, curated by Tadeu Chiarelli as a new artist.

BECO,  a community of slum stilts houses located on top of the arm of the Rio Negro River and  transformed into an urban garbage dump was once the site of the third largest water-pumping station in Brazil, supplying 80% of the water to the affluent city of Manaus, Amazonia. Today the  abandoned community of houses illustrates what has virtually become an open sewer, where dozens of families live in wooden suspended houses, all about to collapse. Many of these people live by collecting garbage among the waste, such as cans and copper wires. The government has made the decision to remove all the families from the site before the beginning of  the World Cup in Brazil in 2014, as Manaus is one of the selected sites to be showcased for the event.

The idea for the documentary came from Preto who lived in Manaus for almost three years. She was reporting on environmental issues for magazines, NGOs and the government and was now witness to changes to her own home base. Manaus is  unique in that many river arms cross the entire city. People who had always lived in the region were now facing changes to a traditional way of life, architecture transformations, new expropriations, construction of drain systems, and many were being forced to leave.

The film is a social chronicle of this particular community of houses with an intimate immersion into the lives of nine families living there. The story’s narrative follows the routine of Liliane, a 24-year-old pregnant woman already the mother of four young children, and how she survives by taking canoe trips with her family to collect cans in the creek. Through Preto’s visual language, which mixes several formats as Super 8, HD and pictures, the movie plunges into sensitive issues such as family, religion and poverty in an extremely hostile atmosphere. This can be a very dangerous place to visit if you are an outsider, and Preto wanted a very intimate atmosphere to tell the story. She went inside the houses to capture their way of life using two HDSRL cameras, Canon 5DMarkII and Canon T2I to get close to her subjects. Sound was put together in post-production. The result is a complex mosaic of poetic imagery and disturbing situations.

Preto’s film was self-financed  through her own agency Fernanda Preto Visual Projects and with  João de Barro, an independent film producer. They plan to circulate the film for cultural purposes in various film festivals and are also looking for distribution in movie theaters, for TV and DVDs.

Preto continues to report on environmental and social issues and is currently living in São Paulo. See many of these projects on her site at on her blog at

Documentary . 73 minutes . Brazil

Subject matter by Fernanda Preto
Directed and Edited by Bruno Jorge
Images Fernanda Preto & Bruno Jorge
Produced by Fernanda Preto & Bruno Jorge
Produced by João de Barro Cinema Independente