Professor’s Film Featured At Museum Of Fine Arts, Houston
SHSU Media Contact: Emily Binetti
Through the power of film, Sam Houston State University associate professor Elisa Herrmann hopes to introduce others to new perspectives by sharing a part of her homeland of Brazil that is unfamiliar to most. To open their Afro-Atlantic Histories film series, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston recently hosted the world premiere of Herrmann’s documentary, “Umbanda: Offerings of Faith”
"The screenings provided audiences an opportunity to watch a movie about a religion rooted in African, European and Indigenous religious practices, and learn about an aspect of Brazilian culture that is not widely known,” Herrmann said.
Herrmann’s documentary examines the history of Umbanda, a syncretic religion founded in Rio de Janeiro in 1908. Although the name Umbanda is extremely well known in Brazil, many Brazilians are unfamiliar with the religion’s practices. Umbanda is not a secret, but many rituals are done in secrecy. Derived of many faiths, especially the African Candomblé, it uses spiritual entities to grant wishes for the good and bad.
The film features interviews with followers of Umbanda, scenes of their practices and rituals, and historical exposition of the roots of the faith, making connections to the influences of African, European, and Indigenous beliefs. In addition to Umbanda priests, priestesses, and initiates, the film includes interviews with scholars in the fields of anthropology, sociology, and languages whose research focuses on mythology and religions of African origin.
“Umbanda is a religion that faces prejudice even in Brazil, and through my documentary, I hope to demystify this religious practice,” Herrmann said. “Exposing oneself to multicultural expressions helps people to broaden their minds and become more accepting of what they may have previously considered different, strange, or foreign.”
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