Rio de Janeiro, July 8, 2016 – U.S. filmmaker Deborah Riley Draper and Hollywood star Blair Underwood visited Rio de Janeiro between June 27 and 30, 2016, to participate in the Brazilian première of the film Olympic Pride, American Prejudice. Directed by Draper and narrated by Underwood – also executive producer of the film –, Olympic Pride, American Prejudice is a feature-length documentary that discusses the participation of eighteen African American athletes in the 1936 Summer Olympic Games in Berlin, in Nazi Germany. The film follows sixteen men and two women before, during and after their heroic turn at the 1936 Olympics. At a time when the United States was marked by segregation and the Jim Crow laws, these athletes represented a country that did not recognize their full citizenship. Winning a total of fourteen medals – eight gold, four silver and two bronze –, their presence in the Berlin Olympics challenged the Nazi theory of Aryan supremacy, became a seminal precursor to the American Civil Rights Movement and is arguably one of the bravest acts in sports history. The world première of Olympic Pride, American Prejudice took place at the L.A. Film Festival, on June 4, 2016. The screenings in Rio de Janeiro were developed by the U.S. Consulate General as a special cultural and educational program for the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
The program started on June 27, when an eight-minute trailer of the film was screened during the U.S. Consulate General’s 4th of July reception. Draper and Underwood discussed the film with Ambassador Liliana Ayalde and a group of forty Consulate guests, including Eduardo Mack, Rio 2016 Marketing and Communication Lead for Cisco Systems Brazil – official supplier of the Rio de Janeiro Games –, and Adriana Karla Rodrigues, Director of the Rio de Janeiro State Library. On the following day, a roundtable at the U.S. Consulate General provided an opportunity for Draper and Underwood to meet with a group of former Brazilian Olympic and Paralympic athletes, with whom they discussed themes including race and gender discrimination in sports, the role of Paralympic sports to promote social inclusion of people with disabilities, and the benefits of sports for educational development of youth.
The Brazilian première of Olympic Pride, American Prejudice took place in the evening of June 28, at the Rio de Janeiro Museum of Modern Art’s Cinema Hall (Cinemateca do MAM). Consul General James Story opened the program. In his remarks, he stressed the film’s message that sport is an important tool to fight racism and discrimination and promote inclusion, and therefore it celebrates Olympic and Paralympic values of friendship, respect, excellence, courage, determination, inspiration and equality. The closed screening for invitees was followed by a roundtable discussion and Q&A session. Draper, Underwood, Brazilian Olympic medalist Robson Caetano, and Afro-Brazilian activist Carlos Alberto Medeiros participated as speakers, with the panel being moderated by GloboNews cable TV journalist Flávia Oliveira. Over two hundred state and city officials, activists, NGO leaders, academics, historians, Olympic and Paralympic athletes, film and TV directors and artists, journalists and students attended the event.
On June 29, the Consulate developed a special screening of Olympic Pride, American Prejudice in partnership with the Brazil-United States Institute (IBEU), for a group of sixty students from the English Access Microscholarship Program, followed by an animated Q&A session, when the students had the opportunity to ask Draper and Underwood questions related to racism and discrimination. The program was concluded by a free, open screening of the documentary at the Cinemateca do MAM, followed by a Q&A session with director Deborah Riley Draper.
The Brazilian première of Olympic Pride, American Prejudice received extensive media coverage. On June 16, prior to Draper’s and Underwood’s arrival in Rio, journalist Flávia Oliveira published a quarter-page column at O Globo newspaper, and she ran also three-minute story at GloboNews cable TV’s program “Estúdio i”, on June 23. In addition, O Globo newspaper and Veja Rio magazine also published short stories with pictures about the film. While in Rio de Janeiro, Draper gave an interview to O Globo newspaper (yet to be published), while SporTV cable TV covered the Brazilian première on June 28, resulting in a five-minute story broadcast on July 7.