Rio favela kids get free movie after pandemic hardships

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Children watch a movie of the “Cinema no Morro” or Cinema on the hill project at a cultural center at the Vila Cruzeiro favela of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Monday, Sept. 13, 2021. The Cinema on the hill is a project provided by the Voz da Comunidade NGO, to screen movies for children from the favelas. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)

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 battered their parents’ jobs. And their disposable income has been eroded by surging inflation, especially the costs of home electricity and food.

“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.

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 number of new COVID-19 cases and deaths have dropped in Rio and Brazil. 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 masks and cleaning gel. The kids also 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 the nonprofit.

___ Associated Press writer Diane Jeantet contributed to this report.

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