Maestrina da Favela, directed by Falani Afrika, is a coming-of-age documentary film, following the Afro-Brazilian percussionist, Elem Silva. At 8 years old, Elem created a band in her favela community to liberate the children from a life of crime, drugs and violence in a favela (slum) community in Brazil's capital of African culture, Salvador, Bahia. After the favela is forced to close for a development project due to the revitalization of her community, the band is dispersed throughout the city. Between the ages of thirteen and twenty-three, Elem is conflicted with personal tragedies: Elem’s mother Dona Nilzete dies; the favela closes; three of the band members are murdered, and Elem suffers from two strokes. Against all odds, Elem continues to lead the band with little funding, in the midst of gentrification and an economic crisis in Brazil.
Maestrina Da Favela is a female centered story created and told by a woman director. The obstacles facing women directors, and more specifically Black female directors is not limited to just funding, but to a systematic exclusion of “us” telling our stories. The importance of having a community of women filmmakers to rely on has been the main inspiration to complete this film. As members of the African diaspora, we are uniquely interested in telling the stories of other people like ourselves.