BEIJA FILMS in association with MOTHER LONDON present
The story of ALAN DUARTE and ABRAÇO CAMPEÃO
A film by BEN HOLMAN and NEIRIN JONES
Alan has lost nine close family members to gun violence in his favela community in Rio de Janeiro.
Now, through his boxing project, he’s fighting to build a better future for his son and his community.
“The Good Fight” is an award winning documentary about the inspiring work of Alan Duarte and ABRAÇO CAMPEÃO (Embracing Champions) that is making a genuine difference.
My relationship with Alan and with Brazil began properly 14 years ago when we met in a boxing ring.
I had just begun living in Rio and as a keen amateur boxer, I had become involved with the NGO “Luta pela Paz”. It was using a methodology involving martial arts, education and personal development to realise the potential of young people in favela communities just like Alan, who were affected by crime, violence and social exclusion..
Although many of his friends and family became victims of the violent drug trade and other dangers for Rio’s marginalised communities, the project helped Alan to make better choices. He was a positive person who had managed to seize the opportunities that the NGO offered to him and he ended up working for Luta pela Paz as a boxing coach and as a mentor.
However, when his brother became the ninth close family member to die as a result of the armed conflict, he decided that wasn’t enough. He decided he needed to do something in the nearby favela community where he was now living. He wanted his son and the young people of the vast favela community of Complexo do Alemão to have the same chance that he had been given.
In 2015, Alan founded his own project “Abraço Campeão” (Embracing Champions) with some old boxing gloves and punch bags from Luta pela Paz that were due to be thrown away. I was deeply impressed by what he then managed to build with his own time and money. It became a beautiful project in its own right, with a family feel that began to do life changing work. It’s somewhere I have loved boxing myself, as has my young son on the occasions I have taken him, so when Alan asked me to make an institutional film for them I readily agreed.
However, I knew that I wanted to make something more ambitious that would really shine a light on both the problems that face so many in Brazilian favela communities and the special work that Alan was doing. I took my friend Neirin Jones to meet Alan. He was another Englishman in Rio and a talented cinematographer, who also had a love of boxing. After just one boxing session at Abraço Campeão, he was just as keen to tell Alan’s story as I was.
Alan’s story was not unique. The perseverance and warmth of many of my Brazilian friends in difficult circumstances is something that never fails to inspire me and deserves both recognition and celebration. However Alan felt different. There was something so amazing in his attitude and his purity of spirit as he managed to take such an ugly situation and turn it into something so beautiful.
Like Alan, we had limited resources, and filming in a conflict zone was not always straightforward. We had guns pointed at us and we had to abandon filming due to gun battles on several occasions. But the community as well as participants on all sides of the armed conflict were very supportive of our work. Our filming crew was just two people, but there was always a small army of both children and adults ready to lend their assistance to our efforts and make us feel utterly at home.
Since the making of this film, Brazil has been in a sustained period of economic and political crisis and the violence has only got worse. Alan has now also lost a tenth member of his family to the armed conflict: his 12 year old cousin, Lucas. However, the NGO has continued to grow and now has over 250 members. Their work has evolved and their efforts are quite literally life saving.
When filming began, Abraço Campeão was just a passion project, like our film. However, thanks to a number of sponsors that found Alan through the film and generous donations the project has grown massively. However, Alan and his team have the potential to still do much more. Our mission now is to take the film and the story of “Abraço Campeão” to an ever larger global audience, who in turn, will hopefully also be inspired to support Alan and join the good fight!