It doesn’t matter who you have faith in – the faith itself is what matters. This statement comes from one of the characters, a mystic, in Ricardo Dias’ documentary, and is also the red thread through his film about faith in Brazil.
Brazil is 95% Catholic, but contains many different religions and different ways of practising one’s religion. In Faith we are taken on a journey through some of the Christian sects. The film starts with a religious feast in the Catholic church that attracts thousands of people, including pilgrims from far and near. The film proceeds to a small community, led by a priestess, who worship God and the saints through dance and music that lead them into a sort of trance – rituals close to what we relate with paganism.
We are taken to the church of a psychic, who gets in contact with the spirits of the dead relatives of his followers and passes on those spirits’ messages. We are taken to the “Valley of Dawn,” the home for a sect-like organization, and also to a christening held by Evangelic Baptists.
Faith focuses on the ceremonies and the religious aspects. It doesn’t show the everyday life of people, but it makes clear that there is a large poor population. The relation between poverty and faith is explained by one of the characters, who says that faith is closely linked to the social state of a country. Poor people need to be closer to God to shape their lives; they need a hope that things can change for the better. In Brazil, the poor feel let down by the government and turn to the church instead. Faith doesn’t question the notion that trusting God to change your life instead of using political pressure can also be repressive. Instead of entering into that discussion, the film sticks with exploring what faith is to people.
The film alternates between wide shots of the crowds singing, praying and performing rituals, and closeups of faces, expressing deep-felt emotions. The closeups and interviews with believers create an understanding and respect for their strong faith. Most can even tell of a miracle they have personally experienced. This creates a background for understanding why they let themselves go in the mass events that border on mass hysteria.
Faith explores religious belief as a human need that cannot be reduced by science. As the mystic [?] says, nobody wants magic to be explained, it is something that we live with.