NEW YORK — Planeta Ginga Film Festival founder Mathias Cassel touched down in New York earlier this month to drum up interest for this year’s event in December.
Set for Dec. 3 and 4 in Brazil, the event features live music as well as all sorts of arts-related and environmental-minded workshops for children living in the favelas. Cassel said, “They need it because all they know is a life of crime. This is a way out. We are showing the children that maybe with art you can save your life.”
For the second consecutive year Twins for Peace, the Paris-based company run by twin brothers Maxime and Alexandre Mussard, will support the festival. The duo will show children living in the favelas how shoes are made, sell shoes to help fund the festival and donate footwear to some children.
The Anne Fontaine Foundation will help 150 children reforest 150 trees, each of which he or she will name so that “they can grow up with. It will be just like magic,” Cassel said.
His mother Sabine, a New York-based writer, helped him connect with Fonatine. Cassel was among the guests along with her daughter Cecile, a musician better known as “HollySiz,” photographer Laurent Badessi and Suzanne and Louis Zinterhofer at Olivier Giugni’s Central Park North apartment here, where Mathias Cassel highlighted some of his plans for this year’s festival.
Filmmaker Jean-Francois Richet, the force behind the two-part film “Mesrine” about French gangster Jacques Mesrine, will try to bring kids up to speed about his former subject and making movies. Given the setting, Cassel said lining up sponsors can be tricky. “For real, this is a festival made in the ghetto. A lot of people learn that and feel, ‘Oh that is beautiful.’ But when some learn about it, they don’t want to be part of it because it’s not good for their image,” Cassel said. “That’s a little bit stupid, but sometimes life is stupid.”
Known for his band Rockin’ Squat and for living in Brazil, Cassel said he got the idea for the festival because as an artist he has worked on social issues for years. “That’s why I get this respect in the ghetto and all around the world. When they see what I’ve done with my life and my work, that opens doors for us,” he said. “It’s really, really hard for us to make the festival in the favela. It’s a very, very dangerous place and the gangs control everything. Everybody is scared of everybody. They don’t want to open doors.”
Marion Cottilard, who first got to know Cassel by listening to his music growing up, hopes to chair this year’s festival. On location last year shooting director’s Justin Kurzel’s “Macbeth” with Michael Fassbender kept her away. Cassel also has the support of another well-known actor, his brother Vincent. “He is always on my side. We talk about ideas all the time. Maybe next time in 2017 he will be president,” Cassel said. “Vincent lives in Rio, too. If he is here, he will be there for sure.”
While a lot of people take photographs of the ghettos to make money with those images, they don’t do anything to help, Cassel said.
From May through October, Planeta Ginga will stage a series of photography exhibitions in Paris, Rio, São Paolo and New York to raise money for this year’s festival. The work of AFBphoto in Brazil’s Christophe Simon, a war photographer of 25 years, and photojournalist Vincent Rosenblatt will be showcased starting in Paris on May 28. Cassel is also ironing out a partnership with the Olympic Committee that will be held in conjunction with this Summer’s Games in Rio. Cassel said, “There are a lot of people involved with this festival, because we need a lot of force and a lot of connections to make this project happen because it’s really heavy.”