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O Zelador (The Caretaker)

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Daren Bartlett


O Zelador, a feature-length documentary, explores the life of Mestre Russo. A remarkable individual who lives with his family in Baixada Fluminense, a former plantation about a one hour bus ride from the centre of Rio de Janeiro. It is a desperately poor area of dirt tracks, roaming animals, open sewers and ramshackle houses.

At an early age Mestre Russo discovered the value of Capoeira. The music, self-defence and philosophy of this Afro-Brazilian cultural manifestation helped him endure a life fraught with danger and hardship.

The film follows Mestre Russo, his wife and sons and his loyal group of students who claim that Russo's love, knowledge and guidance have been an inspiration to them. He is a father-figure to each of them. They, in turn, have provided him with the extended family which he sought.
Russo holds a meeting every Sunday, a 'Roda' (literally circle) in Caxias, where people come and perform Capoeira in the street. This Roda endured the oppressive regime during the dictatorship and has survived for 35 years up until today.

The film includes interviews with Russo, his family, students, other Masters as well as journalists, academics and a Candomble priest. These interviews, together with archive footage and photographs chart the turbulent history of Capoeira and sets it in its cultural, social and political context told through the life of this remarkable man.


Type of film
Running Time
83 mins
Daren Bartlett 1st Feature
Abigail Clarke
Daren Bartlett
Director of Photography
Daren Bartlett


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Last updated 25th October 2007

Production Company

Bantam Films
White Cottage
Green Lane
Boughton Monchelsea
Kent ME17 4LF

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