The legacy of Brazilian LGBTQ activist Marielle Franco lives on
Two years after her death, the legacy of Brazilian LGBTQ activist Marielle Franco lives on with the release of a film that documents her life and her assassination.
The short documentary film, Marielle’s Legacy Will not Die, is directed by Leonard Cortana and is set be screened at the 11th edition of KASHISH Mumbai International Queer Film Festival.
Who was the activist Marielle Franco?
Cortana’s documentary is timely with the Black Lives Matter protests worldwide and specifically with the ongoing killings happening in Brazil.
A Reuters article reported that 1,814 people lost their lives due to police violence in Rio De Janeiro in 2019.
Franco was a black, bisexual, feminist, LGBTQ and human rights activists who was a Rio de Janeiro councilwoman in 2018. She openly criticized police brutality and opposed police militarization in Brazil.
A day before she was gunned down, she criticized the death of a young black man at the hands of the police in a Tweet: “How many more must die for this war to end?”
Recently, Amnesty International Brazil condemned the unresolved killing of Franco with executive director Jurema Werneck stating that, “Two years is too long to wait.”
Werneck added that “the lack of solid results in identifying those who ordered the assassination or clarifying the circumstances of the crime” show how human rights defenders can be killed and these crimes go unpunished.
Rising from poverty to become a politician
Born Marielle Francisco da Silva on 27 July 1979, Franco lived most of her life in a slum in northern Rio de Janeiro. She started to work at 11 years old to contribute to the household income.
At the age of 19, she gave birth to her first and only child in 1998 and raised her daughter without the father’s help by working as a preschool teacher on minimum wage.
She got into the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro on a scholarship and earned a degree in social sciences. She earned a master’s degree in public administration from the Fluminense Federal University.
After working for civil society organizations and the state legislature’s Committee for the Defense of Human Rights and Citizenship, Franco won a seat on the Rio de Janeiro city council in the municipal elections in 2016.
On 14 March 2018, after attending a round-table discussion on young black women in power structures, she and her driver, Anderson Pedro Gomes, were fatally shot by two men who were driving another car.
Remembering the activist Marielle Franco
Cortana’s film not only reports Franco’s murder and the investigation into it, but also acts as a memorial for Franco as it documented the activists’ movement that grew and spread after her death.
“My dream is to see Marielle Franco’s story in history books. The lives of these fighters, these activists (like Franco) and their works also need to be documented to influence new generations,” Cortana told News18.
“Today with the black Lives Matter movement and the fight against impunity of police force, Marielle’s case exists as a reminder of the global colonial roots of police brutality,” Cortana added.
“Rio’s walls are still talking about her and remind us that she is not forgotten. The walls are sweating Marielle. People come in every day to worship her. An active site for memorialization,” he said.
More importantly, he said: “There should not be another Marielle Franco murder or Sarah Hegazi suicide. We have to go beyond the normalization of the necropolitics of the activists.”
“If we do not actively advocate, we become complicit of the status quo of the vulnerability of activists.” He added.
A legacy of transforming grievance into the fight
Cortana noted that Franco’s death has translated into a legacy of activism: “Something that these activists would say all the time is transformar o luto como luta” (‘transforming the grievance into the fight’).
He added that grief is “becoming a fight for these people and in Brazil, all Black people, Black women who got access through the quotas system to universities, to jobs, are now changing the landscape of Brazilian society.”
Monica Benicio, Franco’s widow, said: “To transform the grief into a struggle was not only a way to stay alive without my partner, but also a way of understanding that fighting for justice for her murder is a way of honoring her struggle as a human rights defender.”
“How many more Marielles must die in Brazil?” Benicio asked.