Rio favela kids get free movie after pandemic hardships

Children watch “Space Jam: A New Legacy” as part of the “Cinema on the Hill” project at a cultural center in the Vila Cruzeiro favela of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Monday night. “Cinema on the Hill” is a program provided by the nonprofit Voz da Comunidade — Voice of the Community — to screen movies for children from the favela.

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — As the sun went down on the Vila Cruzeiro favela on Monday, bathing this working-class neighborhood in Rio de Janeiro with warm evening light, kids lined up to catch a free movie screening.

Some had never stepped foot in a cinema because tickets for families can be prohibitively expensive — even before the pandemic left many children’s parents without jobs. And their disposable income has been eroded by surging inflation, which has especially hit the costs of food and home electricity.

“This project is very cool, very important,” said Mateus Borges Coelho, a 21-year-old nurse technician, as he carried his infant daughter into the showing of “Space Jam: A New Legacy.” “Not all parents can afford to bring their kids” to the cinema, he added.

The screening in the venue, called Konteiner, was organized by Voz da Comunidade — Voice of the Community — a nonprofit that first launched “Cinema on the Hill” before the pandemic. It was almost immediately suspended as the novel coronavirus started to spread.

But the numbers of new COVID-19 cases and deaths have dropped in Rio and Brazil. Free movie screenings resumed Monday, and they offer a welcome respite from the pandemic and socioeconomic travails.

More than 200 children rushed through the venue’s entrance at the two screenings on Monday, and volunteers distributed free face masks and cleaning gel. The kids also each received a bag of popcorn and a soda.

“Here in the community, they don’t have a lot places to go,” said Geiza Pires Nunes, who works with Voz da Comunidade.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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