Camila Pitanga, Lázaro Ramos in LADO A LADO
Last week Monday, at the 41st International Emmy Awards
, during which trophies were handed out to TV productions from six countries, out of 36 nominees representing 19 countries (including first-timers Angola and Uruguay), the telenovela award went to Brazil's Lado a Lado
(Side By Side
), which tells the story of two women - one a descendant of slaves and the other from an aristocratic family - who become friends in Rio de Janeiro at the beginning of the 20th century.
The Brazilian telenovela, produced and broadcast by Rede Globo, ran from September 10, 2012 to March 8, 2013. It co-stars 2 Afro Brazilian actors who've been in the news lately: Camila Pitanga and Lázaro Ramos. In short, Brazilian soccer fans are upset at FIFA for allegedly rejecting the two TV stars, as the hosts of the upcoming 2014 World Cup draw event, which is to take place in the northeastern state of Bahia - the historic epicentre of Afro-Brazilian culture, with the largest African-descended population in Brazil, a country that - as ethnically mixed as it is - also holds the title of having the largest African-descended population outside of Africa.
It was subsequently announced that Ramos and Pitanga, stars of the popular soap Lado a Lado (Side by Side), would be replaced by the blond-haired/blue-eyed white couple Rodrigo Hilbert and Fernanda Lima. The move was met with anger and allegations of racism across the country.
Written by Claudia Lage and João Ximenes Braga, Lado a Lado is set in Rio de Janeiro, right at the start of the 20th century, a few years after slavery was abolished in Brazil, and tells the story of a friendship between two women: Laura (Marjorie Estiano), a white girl, daughter of a baroness, and Isabel (the aforementioned Camila Pitanga), a descendant of slaves. Despite being from different social classes, the two develop a solid friendship. Laura and Isabel fall in love with two young idealists, Edgar and Zé Maria (played by Ramos). Amid the early Republic comes the emergence of samba, the arrival of soccer in Brazil, the end of the tenements, and the beginning of the slums (favelas) in Rio, as the two girls imagine a future of equality between men and women, and between black and white people. Of course, their dream isn't necessarily shared by everyone around them.
The series, which has drawn some controversy of its own, has been the recipient of numerous other awards since its debut.
The Black Women of Brazil blog
has a lengthy breakdown of the series, some background and context, as well as info on its controversies, which I encourage you to read in full HERE
Here's a 21-minute compilation of scenes from the series, although it's not subtitled in English.