Well one huge thing that really changed my life was an event that happened to me about four months ago in Brazil (I’m a director and work in Brazil – do a lot of music video there)… Very long story… and I’ll share with you exactly what happened, before and after… Changed my life. Changed how I think, walk, and places I hang out… But on a positive note… I’m doing a feature film based on of it and a children’s book, from which a big chunk of the moolah will go to a good charity…
I met with Sepultura that week. They were playing a small RocknRoll museum show. Finally met them after a year spent chasing them down. So finally hung out with them. Great guys. We all clicked right away and talked about the idea. After the show that night, we stayed up for hours and came up with a cool video concept for the song. The next day I had lunch with the singer to talk about more things and the video. He showed me his really cool new wave funk band he’s playing in and then asked if I wanted to go to his sunglasses sponsorship place. Went there with the other band members, and we all started jamming, which was great.
After that, they asked about the northern Sepultura show they were gonna play and asked if I wanted to go with them and so called Monika the manager and asked if I could and it was no problem. So I went with them on tour. Their whole family was there since they were hardly in Brazil, and were always in America or Europe, so I took the chance to capture stills of the whole event, and it was so nice to see this heavy metal family together. A real magic moment.
So the show and tour went great. I didn’t sleep on the drive back, and went back home tired, and from there went to a museum to try to think clearly. But Chris (My roommate in Sao Paulo, Brazil) sms’ed me saying; “Hey can you come back soon as I forgot my Key.” I’m locked out. So I had to head back to his place. I met up with him gave him the key and I remember him saying; “Ah, this is a really bad day.” Then I went to the market spent all my R50 that I had on me.
Started to cook dinner…8- 30…I noticed on the kitchen floor there was dog piss everywhere, a big sign that my dog I’m living with, who incidentally is my best friend, needs to go for a walk. Okay, so I eat first, then I take him a quick walk around the block. Around 9 PM, I went downstairs with Zeca (the dog) and he was super excited to go out and play and sniff everything and when I reached floor T, I noticed 3 different hands opening the door and 5 men standing there all pointing guns at me. Some were machine guns, others pistols. I couldn’t comprehend what it was. I thought they were construction guys or something. Then I quickly figured out this shit wasn’t a game. It was the real fuckin’ deal! So I tried to not play the typical American. They put me in a corner and were yelling out in Portuguese. Does he bite? Is he angry? I said quickly Sim… nao, nao, nao.. trying to think what to say quickly. They heard my accent right away and said; “Ahhh Gringo” and asked me how much money I had. They took my dog in the other room and pointed the guns at me to get me upstairs. They threw me in a storage room with about 20 other people on the floor who were tied up. There was a huge pile of mess from all the personal belongings: bags, cards and everything in between. A big pile of mess they were sorting out. Once in the room they threw me in the corner and quickly checked my whole body searching for money, drugs guns anything they could find. The took my wallet (which had nothing in it) and my iPhone. Three guys were asking how much I had. I said nothing and didn’t show any fear, staying very professional, and calm. Robbers live off your fear in order to make them stronger. Don’t give them the upper hand. I simply said in basic Portuguese; “Eu acho… Eu Tenho só cinco-0-0 $R. e seis-0-0 dollaries”. And they were mad saying that’s all I have, trying to push me around and say I had more by showing their guns, but that’s all I really had when they asked for money. They noticed my tattoos, and asked if was in a gang or something. And one guy said: “Ah this guy is just a rocker he doesn’t have money” and then they weren’t as interested in me anymore. Then I noticed across the room my room-mate, Chris… tied up and he had a jacket covering his face. They were asking if I knew him since he also has a lot of tattoos and I said: “Yeah he’s my friend.” They put us next to each other. Chris was translating for me and Chris was saying: “He’s just a student and a musician. He doesn’t have a lot of money” and he told them, he was the same; just a musician and student. They kept on picking on the American guy, and yeah, that would be me. Trying to push me for more money and trying to intimidate me with their guns asking if I want “this”. But there was one nicer guy to me who understood that I was just a guy with not much money.
They kept on going back and forth… at least 15-20 guys… 75% with guns. Some guys went downstairs, some went up… switched places. I knew all their shoes.
I was looking at and studying all of them….Which ones were the nicer ones and which were the fuckin’ gangster guys who liked to push a gun square in your face. I noticed the two, tougher guy’s shoes (the ones with the bigger guns) walking by slowly and stopped and turned at me; “Ei gringo“… they were asking in Portuguese where my safe box was. Then the other guy asked the same thing… and then a 3rd guy… They told Chris to not translate, that it was just between me and them. I didn’t know the word for safe box at the time…. Coffen (or something). “Where is your safe box fucking gringo?” The guy pointed the machine gun right at me, touching my chin… and one other guy came and pointed a revolver at my forehead…. They all switched over asking where it was. Then another came at m with a simple kitchen knife, touching my index finger. I remember all I thought; “Oh well, I guess I won’t play guitar anymore.” I said very calmly and professionally in Portuguese; “I do not understand I am sorry… Please ask him…”
And they didn’t listen so I kept on saying that… over and over again. Then I said again: “Sou studente tenho só blah blah $ and blahe blahe$”, same as before… Then another guy a meter or two away got pissed off and couldn’t take it, so he cocked his pistol and came right at me put his pistol to the other side of my head. All of a sudden they heard a noise and all ran away from me, heading outside. Some of the other guys downstairs caught another guy; and were going through the same process, the same thing they do to everybody they catch coming in and out of the building. Sometimes one or two guys asked me for the money, and Chris said he doesn’t have it, and one by one, they were bringing everybody to their rooms to steal stuff. The older lady across from me got 70,000 stolen from her. They took Chris up to our apartment and kept me downstairs. Since he’s a bigger guy, he was accompanied by two pistol guys and one with a machine gun. As time passed I noticed another good friend who came in at 10pm… My good friend, who lived downstairs for me, Denis. He always comes back from work at 10pm. They took 500R from him (which was his weekly pay in cash then), and his newer iphone. Twenty minutes passed, and Chris comes down and tells me: “They took your camera, lenses, laptop, all your money (900R and 600 US), your bag, my college bag, my laptop, 500R from me and my ipod.” Nothing we could do to fight it or stop it happening, you just has to let it happen and come back stronger.
Another hour passed, and more people came in. There were now about 30 of us. Some families, some crying babies…Chris asked: “Where’s my dog?” The guy said “Your dog is too beautiful to stay with you, we’re taking him.” How can you do that kinda shit? They were about to leave. They put tape on the men who were more likely to be a hero the hero. Chris, some other middle aged guys, some who talked more and me. I opened my mouth a bit when they put the tape around me because then it’s easier to break it and take it off. They were saying very, very clearly; “Stay quiet and sit down for 30/40 minutes, if anybody moves or talks we will kill you.” They turned off the light and locked us in. Everybody was trying to keep everybody else calm and quiet. My friend Chris couldn’t take it broke his ties and tape, I followed him and did the same. He was trying to look out of a window to see if anybody had left already. But after about 8 mins, we all decided there was no way they were coming back to get us. They just wanted us to be scared and stay quiet. We turned on the light, and both Chris and I were helping other people break their ties. We started with the older people first… and then suddenly 10 mins later; BAM BAM. Then quiet. Everybody sat down and became quiet. We weren’t sure what had happened. Maybe it was the guys coming back to kill us, who knew? Then, it happened again, BAM BAM, then silence. At that point everybody thought the same thing, Just one thing, it was the guys coming back as we were making noise. I haven’t heard any place become that silent. After the 2nd bam, I heard some men saying it as the police; and we said “Entra”, they broke down the locked door and saved us. They came so quickly. But how? Who called them? And just imagine if they did call them while we were all still hostages, it would have been a full on hostage negotiation. And a complete blood bath. We all quickly helped one another fix up the mess and sort out a pile of credit cards, IDs, wallets etc. on the table. Everybody was helping each other no matter what. Everybody did their part. It really was something to see! So in the end, everybody was safe, unharmed and nobody got hurt, except one older man who had bruise marks from getting punched. Who knows what happened there…?
The men stole probably around what would be $R100,000. For what? Divided by 15 or 20…. all that work for that? Horrible….
The next day at the police station, while I was making my report, a few of us from the building were there; the police said the same people robbed three other buildings that night, and didn’t get caught. I heard today they found one of the taxis that were stolen from the taxi driver who lives in our building.
At the station we looked through their series of photos and saw one of the main bandits. Who knows what the police will do now they know? We can only wait and see.
The way they entered the building was one guy was dressed in the classic Brazilian mail man outfit, and said: “I have a package for…”, got in and showed his gun. Why doesn’t our building have better security and even a silent alarm button to call the cops? That should be done right away!
I had a friend who worked at a Santos newspaper, he also had contacts with a bigger journalist and E-mailed him the story of what happened. After a 20 min turnaround I got a phone call from a journalist at Globo the biggest news agency in Brazil and told him the whole story and the email and a hour later there it was under the local section on globo.com. So many people started sharing the story on FaceBook that it became the front page and then their home page. A night passed…
“Blake, wake up, Globo is here to interview us.” That was Chris at 9am. Two big news stations came: Record and Globo,and then in the next couple of hours three more came. The next four days were filled with news and media.
The story became huge, not just on Facebook, but all over Brazil and internationally. Everbody knew who Zeca, Chris and I were. Slowly the media wasn’t interested in my story or anything focused on the American director in Brazil. All they cared about was Zeca. So Zeca and Chris became the media focus.
I said to my self: OK I need to get away and re-think my steps. Okay I’m gonna go to Rio to take a breather. Just as I thought of leaving that night I got a phone call from Brazil Sundays biggest show ‘Panico’. The producer called us and asked me to stay till Sunday. So I did. They promised Chris and I two things; 1) help to find Zeca and 2) help us get our things back and promote the kinda work we do. Maybe a little promotion would help us to get work. So I listened to his promise. Sunday we went on the show live, not sure if they’d make fun of us or what not. We went on they held signs with Zeca with Chris’ numbers on it. They interviewed us for two seconds and talked about the dog. Nothing more. We thought they were gonna say something else. Like maybe even give us a gift for being on the show. Chris got thousands of SMS and phone calls. But all BS and jokes. Nothing serious. And when we got home his Facebook was swamped with thousands of people adding him, and a few people added me. But nothing compared to Chris FB. We both got really sad and depressed that night as we felt used and couldn’t tell if they hurt or helped us…
The next day Chris runs home after work saying: “Blake! They found Zeca.” He’s at the police station. His sister took us there. We were zig-zagging through traffic. Rushing there and at the detective police station in Zona Norte, we saw the Panico producer outside who congratulated us. We ran inside. Chris said: “Ready Blake? Every news and journalist is there waiting for us.”
When we entered the room all you could see were flashes. Like a presidential conference. Zeca ran towards Chris and I and was super happy. We put him on the table, I opened a bag of food and he went crazy and ate Photos and cameras were still rolling. As they were interviewing us, we ran downstairs to sign paper work. They showed us four men in a line,and I noticed three of them who were some of the robbers. Chris said all four of them were guilty but one of them was a cop. Ha, ha. “When I see people like that in a line they’re all guilty“. I put my name on the police report as an omega almungus. A false name to protect myself. We saw Sabrina Sato, the host of Panico, who interviewed us. They filmed Zeca and us and drove us back to our place. When we got there,there were more cameras outside our home. The Panico crew came up to our room and filmed us, what we do for a living the bands we play in. A little something extra about the dog story and his owners. The next day Sabrina and her camera crew took me and Zeca to the pet store to give him a bat and they found a total of 30 ticks on him.
The next days more photographers and news and radio personal came to take photos of Chris and the dog. They didn’t want me in the way, they didn’t care, but they interviewed me and said they will keep it in since they wanted to help me.
Sunday came and we got a call saying they were going to pick us up, but that they didn’t have time for us to be on Panico live show. I saw the edit they did of us. It was funny and interesting, but they cut out all the scenes where we talk about our jobs and our personal lives. They promised they wouldn’t do that. But, of course, they lied.
The next fewdays. Where ever I walked Zeca everybody would stop either their cars or on the street and say “Hey it’s Zeca!! Oi Zeca!!!” He was just too famous…
Blake Farber is guitarplayer for NYHC band Olde York who recently released “Shallow World” on WTF records. Blake’s also a music video director. His work includes:
Beyonce – Countdown (co director)
Lavalette – Malfunction Cro Mags Cover (NY Pop/Rock band)
Kaos 13 – Misery (Ruff Ryder’s side project):
Rosie Vanier – You Stoled My Guy (UK Pop singer)
And the 2012 Directors Reel