"The goal of Discovery Atlas is to create the most complete visual record of the history, civilization, geography, industry, technology and people of the world," said John S. Hendricks, founder and chairman of Discovery Communications, Inc.
He is talking about a media event that, he promises, will transport viewers to 30 countries around the world using captivating photography, high quality production values and high-definition technology to capture the world like never before.
On Sunday, October 15, will be the time for Discovery Atlas: Brazil Revealed. But, before that viewers will be able to watch a few other countries.
The journey begins Sunday, October 1st, 2006, at 9 PM (ET/PT) with the global world premiere on the Discovery Channel and Discovery HD Theater of Discovery Atlas: China Revealed, as narrated by Emmy award-winning actor James Spader.
China will be followed by explorations of the people, cultures and lands of Italy (Sunday, October 8), Brazil (Sunday, October 15) and Australia (Sunday, October 22). All programs begin at 9 PM (ET/PT).
Thorough Discovery’s lenses, Brazil appears as an exhilarating and spontaneous country of contradictions and possibilities. Where else do paupers become princes and the world’s biggest party become a deadly serious competition?
Discovery Atlas: Brazil Revealed showcases one of the most ethnically diverse nations on earth, exploring stories from the Amazon to São Paulo’s hair-raising helicopter commute.
The idea is to continue over the next five years this narrative focusing on the rich cultures, geography and natural phenomena of some of the world’s oldest and most diverse countries.
"Perhaps more than any other program this year, Discovery Atlas is emblematic of Discovery Channel’s core mission. Traveling to 30 countries over the next five years, this project will show viewers the world through the eyes of its people. Amazing clarity and innovative storytelling using the people within these countries will offer Discovery viewers a rare perspective and insight into the world around us," said Jane Root, executive vice president and general manager of Discovery Factual Networks Group.
Discovery Atlas is Discovery Communications’ most ambitious global project to date, touching every division of DCI. Discovery’s International Networks will broadcast global world premieres in more than 170 countries and territories, and Discovery HD Theater will simulcast each Discovery Atlas special.
Discovery’s Brazilian Characters
Boa Gente (Vivaldo Conceição)
Sixty-year-old Boa Gente (Portuguese for "nice guy") lives in the favela of Vale das Pedrinhas in Salvador, capital of Bahia state.
During the 18th and 19th centuries, Salvador was the center of Brazil’s immense African slave trade. Today many aspects of life in Salvador still reflect the population’s African origins.
Boa Gente is a case in point. Since the age of 7 he has practiced the Brazilian martial art of capoeira – a form of movement and music unique to Brazil with roots in Africa.
Growing up fatherless and in poverty, Boa Gente believes the discipline and philosophy of capoeira kept him on the straight and narrow and brought him success. Today, as a capoeira master, he uses capoeira to help favela kids faced with similar problems.
In return for improvements in school attendance and behavior, he offers free capoeira lessons and the chance of a new life. Every child he takes on presents a new challenge – none more so than Jackson.
Jackson dos Santos
Jackson is typical of many kids in the Vale das Pedrinhas favela. His father is dead and his mother’s influence on him is waning. At 12 years old, he no longer lives at home because of problems with his stepfather.
Jackson now lives with his grandmother, sleeping on a couch in the tiny living room, and prefers hanging out on the streets, looking for trouble, rather than going to school. For many favela kids this is the first step on the road to drugs and crime.
Out of desperation, Jackson’s mother has persuaded Boa Gente to admit Jackson to his capoeira lessons. The new regime is physically and mentally tough. Jackson is kept busy all day with school, working on the community radio station, capoeira lessons and practice, and a computer course in the evenings.
Being this busy is what will keep him out of trouble and give him the chance of a new life. For now, the kudos of being one of Boa Gente’s pupils is enough to keep Jackson on the straight and narrow.
Caneta (Miguel Benedito Guimarães Bittencourt)
Despite decades of logging, the Amazon rain forest is still vast and impenetrable. When the road ends there is only one way into the interior – the mighty Amazon River.
Like generations of his family before him, Caneta makes his living sailing merchandise upriver, far into the interior, emerging a month later with traded forest goods or hard cash.
At the age of 48, his childhood nickname of Caneta (meaning "pen" because he was so tall and skinny) may no longer be quite accurate, but that’s how thousands of people up and down the Amazon know him.
His customers are caboclos, river dwellers who inhabit the banks of the Amazon, hundreds of miles from the nearest store, car or doctor. As trees are felled and roads are bulldozed into the interior, the forest is being opened.
There used to be 300 regatões selling goods on the Amazon, but now there is only enough trade for 50, and competition is just as much a threat to Caneta’s livelihood as pirates, bad weather, freak tides, submerged logs or dangerous rapids.
Luciana Chaves lives and works in the Justice Department of Brazil’s modern capital, Brasília. Designed and built in the 1950s as the perfect seat of government, Brasília contrasts in every way with the old capital, Rio de Janeiro.
Where Brasilia has gleaming white concrete, precisely designed and laid out avenues and wide-open parks, Rio has a chaotic mixture of deluxe apartment blocks rubbing shoulders with a jumble of favela houses, hemmed in by mountains and beaches.
Luciana dreams of dancing the samba in the Rio Carnaval. She travels to Rio to visit Mangueira Samba School, one of the oldest and most eminent favela organizations competing in the annual Carnaval Parade.
Tradition has it that only a Carioca, a person born and bred in Rio, can dance the samba properly. Luciana wants to buck this trend. Only in Mangueira will Luciana find out if she can make her dream reality and become part of the biggest party on earth – the Rio Carnaval.
Clarissa Pinheiro Pereira
São Paulo is South America’s largest city, with around 18 million inhabitants and 150 miles of gridlock at rush hour. To avoid the traffic chaos and high crime rates, the rich have taken to the air.
It’s said that no city on earth has more helipads than São Paulo, or busier airspace. At the center of this burgeoning transport system are the pilots, like 23-year-old Clarissa, one of only three female pilots working in the city.
By day she is an aerial taxi driver, shuttling wealthy commuters between home, work and meetings. By night she studies hard at flying school, preparing for exams that will qualify her to fly in poor visibility, on instruments only, broadening the scope of her work and her earning potential.
When gold was discovered in Ouro Preto (Black Gold) in 1698, the town became the wealthiest in Brazil almost overnight. But the mines were exhausted within a century, and the town became isolated, remaining almost perfectly preserved as a microcosm of 18th century Brazil.
Lays has lived here all her life, and to her the steep cobbled streets and 13 ornate baroque churches are just part of the scenery.
But it’s not just the stunning architecture that makes Lays’ hometown special. The Roman Catholic rituals observed here have also been preserved almost unchanged for 300 years. On Easter Sunday the townspeople parade in Biblical costume through the streets on an ornate carpet of colored sawdust and petals.
Little girls dressed as angels, with wings made of real feathers, lead the procession, and Lays has already picked out a new dress for this year. But for her the highlight would be to design and construct a section of the carpet for the procession.
Rodrigo Ferreira de Souza
São Paulo state is the richest state in Brazil, and the center of the massive Brazilian cattle industry. Brazil has the biggest cattle herd in the world, outstripping the human population by almost 20 million.
Largely unmechanized, the industry relies on the physical labor of millions of peões – ranch hands and cowboys. Rodrigo Ferreira de Souza lives on a farm near Botucatu in the São Paulo countryside.
His job is to look after a group of prize rodeo bulls, keeping them fit and healthy so that they are in prime condition for big competitions.
It’s a very solitary, quiet life, and the isolation of the farm means that Rodrigo often may not see another human being for days at a time. He is kept going by his burning ambition to be a famous rodeo bull rider.
Jacqueline Mota Diniz
The day starts early for 19-year-old Jackie. She leaves the family home at dawn to catch a bus to downtown Manaus, where she works as a housemaid.
Manaus is one of the world’s most isolated cities, lying in the heart of the Amazon rain forest 900 miles from the Atlantic coast. A rubber boom a century ago made it the richest city on earth, but when the boom ended, Manaus faded into obscurity.
Now Jackie is helping to put Manaus back on the map. Along with more then 20,000 other local people, she is taking part in the Peladão – the biggest amateur soccer tournament in the world.
Eight hundred local teams participate in six months of weekend matches on hundreds of pitches scattered across Manaus. During the Peladão, newspapers and radio stations talk of nothing else.
Jackie is a key player in one of the few female teams taking part. She formed the team with a group of school friends and spends every moment of her free time training.
Paulinho (Paulo Jorge de Moraes)
Paulinho may be one of the smallest men in Manaus, but for six months of the year he is also the most feared. Since the Peladão began in 1972 he has been head referee of the tournament.
Now 58 years old, he has issued more red cards than any other ref in the history of the Peladão, and on many occasions has had to flee for his life at the end of a match, as enraged fans and players turn on him.
The stakes are high – any player sent off can be banned from playing in the tournament for three years. A second offense can see a player banned permanently. In a country where soccer is a way of life, that’s a life sentence.
Mauro de Oliveira
Mauro De Oliveira, his wife Maria and their six children live in Greenwing Valley in Piauí, Brazil’s poorest state. Greenwing Valley is a huge swath of cerrado – scrub savannah – hemmed in by soaring red granite cliffs.
Mauro was born here and inherited the valley on the death of his father. Although they must live without electricity, running water, TV, telephone or any other trappings of modern life, Mauro and Maria chose to stay here to raise their family.
The valley is also home to some amazing wildlife, including rare Greenwing macaws and a unique group of capuchin monkeys that use stones and anvils to crack nuts. The monkeys have attracted zoologists and tourists from all over the world, finally enabling Mauro to make a living from his inheritance.
He now works as a researcher and wildlife guide, and his children are following in his footsteps. But day-to-day life is no easier. At the height of the dry season Mauro and his sons must be permanently on the alert as brushfires come ever closer to Greenwing Valley.