Arriving at Baycat, the Bayview Hunters Point Center for Arts & Technology, about forty minutes prior to the San Francisco premier of "Favela Rising," we hadn’t banked on the sellout crowd. Fortunately, we were offered standing room, which turned out to be the best "seats" in the house. (Once the film rolled, several others joined us on the tables we stood on throughout the show to better view the subtitles.) The cozy environment was actually a plus viewing this film.

We were very impressed with the Baycat space and the staff. For those of you who’ve never heard of Baycat, its mission is to empower and educate youth and young adults from underserved SF neighborhoods via its digital media arts program. It was a perfect place for the San Francisco debut of this documentary.

The movie focuses on Anderson Sa, who lost his brother to what has been deemed "the Massacre," when the police entered his "favela" (which is the term used for poorer Rio neighborhoods), Vigario Geral, and killed 21 innocent people to avenge the killings of four police officers by a local druglord. After much soul searching and determination, Sa set out to inspire others in the favela to take a stand against the violence.

Sa's instrument of change was his music -- in the form of a grassroots cultural group called the Grupo Cultural AfroReggae. AfroReggae’s primary success lies not in its international recognition, but in the effect it has had on favela residents (not just the Vigario Geral favela where it was founded) in reducing violence, in bridging the gap between favela residents, the police, and the cartels, and in offering youth and young adults an alternative path.

SFist Wendy, contributing.