In 1959 the film Black Orpheus (Orfeu Negro), an updated tale of the Greek legend Orpheus and Eurydice, was released. The film was set in a Rio de Janeiro favela during Carnaval, and brought Afro-Brazilian life to the attention of film audiences due to its vibrant depiction of Rio’s favelas and the film’s sophisticated portrayal of Afro-Brazilian spirituality, sensuality, and poetic lyricism. For most audiences outside of Brazil, Black Orpheus was their first awareness of Black people living in South America.
The film, starring an all Black cast, went on to become an international success, winning both an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film and the Cannes Film Festival’s Palme d’Or. Over the past fifty years, many Brazilian films such as City of God and Favela Rising have increased the visibility of Afro-Brazilians in film.