The favelas of Rio de Janeiro are notorious for guns, gangs, drug-dealing and poverty, but with the city hosting the World Cup next month the government is determined to clean them up before the tourists arrive. They call it pacification. But the people who live there (one in five of Rio’s residents) aren’t keen on government interference and wonder why the money can’t be spent on health and education.
The estate agents are happy, though. “Now the shooting has stopped, the prices have shot up,” explains one, who’s greedily buying plots of land for hotel developments.
Two favela dwellers, Rocky and Acme, who are both wonderfully colourful characters, show us a life we’d never normally see. Rocky, for instance, makes his living carrying newly bought kitchen appliances up Cantagalo’s hundreds of steps (he also ferries ill people down them). It’s a much more realistic portrait than BBC2’s unedifying Copacabana Hotel documentary, even though, irritatingly, Cleo Rocos’s cooing narration constantly refers to “our favelas” as if she lives there.
That Sally Wainwright knows how to write a cliffhanger. You’ve probably spent a good while drumming your fingers and staring into the middle distance as you pondered police officer Catherine Cawood’s fate. Here, we find out.
The previous episode could easily have marked the end of Happy Valley’s story, but Wainwright takes us in different and unexpected directions – this is still only the penultimate instalment. So we are led into the aftermath of the inept kidnap plot.
There is damage, squalor and brutality, and painful emotional fallout. Lives are wrecked and there are difficult conversations. But these are when Wainwright comes into her own – she can write such real-sounding dialogue and she takes great care to make supporting characters flourish. Like Catherine’s kindly sister, Clare (the brilliant Siobhan Finneran), who has to mend lives. Not easy.
Arcade Fire top the bill. The Montreal six-piece are probably the biggest alternative band in the world: they make zero mainstream impact, but four albums in and each record is still a huge event on the pages of NME and Rolling Stone, with American hipster gods like Michael Cera and Spike Jonze queuing up for collaborations. That the group’s latest LP, the 75-minute Reflektor, is a gassy indulgence hasn’t made their crown slip.
Joining the Fire are Irish rockabilly queen Imelda May, singer-songwriters Damien Jurado and Sharon van Etten, and the Amazing Snakeheads, a Glasgow trio whose blues/punk mix sounds like music for a film banned for being too disturbingly violent.