I’m going to start this section by clarifying that the one writing is David. Renata prepared all the other texts for this site, and left this one up to me. Her modesty prevented her from thinking clearly about what to write about us. But if you read the “How it all began” section you already know the essentials: Renata is an exceptional woman who grew up with a healthy longing to remain a kid. She was fascinated by her own childhood, and as she grew, she continued to value the magical filters children use to see, hear, touch, and communicate. Her contact with these filters nurtured together with a desire, sometimes conscious, sometimes not, to stay close to the little-big adventures that can happen in any backyard, street, beach, field or forest. She began investing in these adventures during adolescence, when, if the truth is even half a fun as her stories, she was one of the best girl scout leaders in Sao Paulo.
In college, new life sprung from a tedious Physical Education degree when she realized that children’s play was a universal form of human expression. Texts about stretching exercises and sports were happily replaced by research about traditional games and toys around the world. Soon came the realization that books, while supplying essential information, weren’t the best way to learn traditional games; kind of like learning to swim from a manual. One needs to get out into the world where expressions of play exist and experience them first hand. She’s been making such research trips for years. Projeto BIRA was the most comprehensive of these trips, but she’s also researched the games, toys and childhoods of the Xavante Indians and the charcoal workers in Mato Grosso stat; of the Garuani Indians in the state of Espirito Santo; and of the children in several tiny villages in the states of Minas Gerais, Goiás, Rio de Janeiro, Ceará, Bahia, and São Paulo. With the material and experiences she's collected, Renata gives courses, workshops and lectures at public and private schools, universities, institutions, associations, clubs, and NGO’s. Today, whether teaching training courses for educators or organizing play time with pre-schoolers, her general emphasis is always the same: putting people in touch, usually literally, with what she has learned from the contact she’s had with children from the most diverse regions of Brazil.
Currently Renata is taking a closer look at the material we’ve collected with BIRA. She’s finishing her Masters thesis in the Faculty of Education at the University of Sao Paulo. She’s taking the footage, pictures, and memories that came back with us from the Amazon, and analyzing them with “poetry of the imagination” philosophy. And I can’t wait to see the end result.
I graduated with a BA in Literature and Rhetoric from SUNY Binghamton in 1999. Without any specific plans and afraid of falling into some meaningless career, I began working odd jobs with hopes of saving money to spend on new experiences.
I traveled to Brazil for the turn of the millennium and fell in love with the country and its culture. Within a month of my arrival, I was playing in a traditional-folk street band, Boi Marinho, that had its own bus for Carnaval. Experiences couldn’t have been any newer. I extended my visa from 2 months to 6 months. During this time I got to know more of Brazil than the average Brazilian. In the last of these six months I was invited to a party where I had a conversation that was to change my life: I met Renata who briefly explained the independent research she’d been doing with games and toys. At the time she was deliberating between two dreams: spending her savings on a trip to research games, or on a down payment for a house. Enchanted, I encouraged her to keep planning the trip and offered my company to document the research in audio and video.
I went back to the U.S. and worked two odd jobs at once to save up money to buy camera equipment and film. I returned to Brazil in 2001 to start Projeto BIRA. Things were intense; the Amazon’s heat and its lack of an infrastructure (that I’m accustomed to) has everything to do with the kind of childhood we were looking for. As our project took shape I felt like I was learning something new on a daily basis, for example: that dreams can be made concrete, that filming children isn’t as simple as I’d thought, that certain meats weren’t made for certain stomachs, and that humanity, regardless of where you find it, always has the capacity to surprise. I also began wishing that I’d been a child in the Amazon, but soon realized that this wish had partially come true during the eight months I was there: I learned to make and fly kites with miriti-palm frames, to carve tops out of guava branches and tucumã seeds, and to shoot thorns out of bamboo gun at pesky horse flies.
With so much investment in the production of documentaries and in the enjoyment of children’s culture, the fear of falling into a meaningless career has faded and the structure for a new life has taken shape.