5 best documentaries about Umbanda

Umbanda baptism, photo by Aline Scaravelli/Flickr

One of the fast-growing Brazilian religions, a mix of African traditions and Catholicism, Umbanda is frequently misunderstood and despised. Check this selection of documentaries that shed some light – maybe not enough – on one of the pillars of Brazilian religiosity.

1- Brazilian Spirituality, a basic intro from Global Village Travel Guide:

2 – National Geographic visits two mediums in the Amazon in their daily activities and dilemmas: trying to help a woman who wants her husband killed and another who believes an evil spirit is causing her many health issues. The narrator says they are umbandistas – but I suspect this is rather candomblé, closest to the African origins.

3 – Brazilian TV show Globo Repórter translated the documentary O Poder do Machado de Xangô, produced by the French television somewhere in the late seventies. It was coordinated by Pierre Verger, the photographer that went deep into Brazilian-African culture, and it is probably the best documentary ever made about this topic. Unfortunately, it has no subtitles and I couldn’t find the French version online. This is the first part:

Also: Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5

4 – Para Ver a Umbanda Passar shows how Umbanda is practiced in the Southern state of Paraná. On the beach, the community celebrates Iemanjá, the beautiful orixá of the seas. Again, no subtitles.

5 – Na Rota dos Orixás, produced by Pólo de Cinema e Vídeo do Distrito Federal, tells the Black Diaspora story. Of course, religion plays a big part in it. It is pretty great – check the opening “dialogue” between Brazilians and Africans. In Portuguese, no subtitles. This is the first part:

Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10


Check also this other post here at Deep Brazil: Iemanjá, the queen of the seas

2 thoughts on “5 best documentaries about Umbanda”

  1. awesome post as usual! tones of good stuff. “cult” tho has a very bad connotation in english, which might be what you were looking for. or not. (sorry, i feel strongly about this, due to the tragic history of africans in brazil. just ignore my comment if you think this is irrelevant).

  2. Thanks, Elô, I really like when you point out language problems in my posts. And, yes, I think you are right about the word cult. I will try to find another solution. Take care, girl!

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