The Conscious Hood: Being Black Is No Crime

Filmmaker Q&A with Director Katherine Jinyi Li

Is there a particular documentary film or filmmaker that had a major influence on your career?

Kátia Lund


What motivated you to make your impact video?

The police violence I experienced in my community and the prejudiced media coverage surrounding it.


Please tell us what camera(s) you shot with primarily – and any other special equipment that you used and why you used it.

Basic Canon DSLR, handheld mic for interviews


Please tell us about any special styles or techniques that you used during the production of your film to help tell your story.

Having my own students present the show and ask the questions in order to make the video more appealing to young watchers


How did your story evolve from day one, to the very last day in post? Is your story what you thought it would be?

At first we wanted to create a more informative documentary, with police officials and criminal specialists, but ended up leaning more towards a narrative voice that came from the youth themselves, they wrote a “Brazilian funk” song about their experiences with racist police violence as well as a short script in order to encourage dialogue beyond just informing the community.


Please describe the most rewarding experience you had while making this film.

At one point the police stopped us from filming and forced us at gunpoint to delete the images we had taken of the police cars passing through the community. They threatened to handcuff me and take me to the station, but I calmly explained that I was simply the youth program teacher and we were working on a school project. My students were scared but also reassured of their own rights as filmmakers and citizens.


What advice can you give to other impact filmmakers?

Be safe and do your research so as to never be afraid or shy while filming.


What’s your favorite part about the filmmaking process and why?

The street interviews, because people can surprise and move you with their honest, unexpected answers


What’s the one item you always take with you when working out in the field and why?

Notebook, so I can write down names and ideas that come to be on the spot.


Please provide a brief description of the work or organization featured in your video:

A web-series produced by youth in the largest favela of São Paulo about racism and police violence in the community.


What have you learned about the value and impact of the project?

My students gained the confidence to hold a camera, speak in front of one, and interview their peers and community members about tough issues.


Please share a personal story about your experience making this impact video.

Coming from a traditional news journalism background, I had to learn to be flexible to my own students’ creative whims and power. I studied how social media videos, web-series, and mini-docs were effective in order to break out of my “TV package” footage and editing formula.


What do you want audiences to take away from this video?

The realities of racist police violence in the favelas of Brazil as well as the humanity of the youth of color who suffer through this reality on a daily basis


Please list key points that should be covered in a post-screening discussion:

How aspects of racist police violence in Brazil reflect the American reality

What can Brazilian youth and communities be doing to fight back against police violence?


Please provide information on any recent developments regarding the issue or subjects of the video. How have things changed or not changed?

My students have now graduated and we are enrolling a new crew of community journalism youth next month.


What opportunities are available for those interested in getting further involved?

Anyone interested in getting involved can contact the youth program director at UNAS Heliópolis, or simply stop into the office if they’re ever in Brazil. The easiest way to get involved is also just to share the video on your social media accounts, to share the work and message.


Please provide any additional resources (websites, links to additional videos, forms, articles, etc.) relevant to the context of the issue discussed in your video:

Many more web-series episodes and other videos produced by our youth in the favela of Heliópolis can be watched on our YouTube channel, here



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