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Ebony Goddess: Queen of Ilê Aiyê

Three young women search for identity and self-esteem as they compete for the title of Ebony Goddess in Salvador da Bahia, Brazil, the largest black city outside of Africa.

  • Carolina Moraes-Liu
    Festive Land
  • Carolina Moraes-Liu
    Festive Land
  • Chung Liu
    Festive Land
  • Lisa Earl Castillo
    Associate Producer
    Festive Land
  • Project Type:
    Documentary, Short
  • Runtime:
    19 minutes 20 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    January 10, 2010
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
  • Language:
    English, Portuguese
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • San Diego Latino Film Festival
    San Diego
    Best Documentary Short
  • San Diego Black Film Festival
    San Diego, California
    North America Premiere
    Best Diaspora Film Award
  • San Francisco Women's International Film Festival
    San Francisco, CA
  • Hollywood Brazilian Film Festival

    nominated best short documentary
  • Chicago Latino Film Festival
Director Biography - Carolina Moraes-Liu

Carolina Moraes-Liu is an award-winning producer who has worked on documentaries and television shows for over 10 years. Her film, "Ebony Goddess: Queen of Ilê Aiyê", won the Corazon Award for best short documentary at the San Diego Latino film festival. Carolina produced and directed the documentary film "Festive Land: Carnaval in Bahia", winner of the Remi Award at the WorldFest International Film Festival, and part of the curriculum of Latin American Studies and Cultural Anthropology classes in many universities. She is currently working on a film about a young woman who at 16 founded the collective learning platform Desabafo Social, with the main mission of guaranteeing alternative practices for human rights in Brazil. Carolina is a member of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, where she has served as a judge for the Emmy Awards. Carolina was born in Bahia, Brazil, and holds a Master’s degree in Radio and Television from San Francisco State University.

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Director Statement

I am from Bahia, but I have been living in the United States for most of my adult life. I went back to Bahia after being away for almost 7 years, and I started to notice a shift in how women dressed and wore their hair—the presence of braided hair on the streets was especially remarkable.

When I went to Bahia to shoot the film "Festive Land: Carnival in Bahia", I had the opportunity to spend a couple of very special days with the group Ilê Aiyê.

Ilê Aiyê is more than a carnival group. They have year-round social projects that help thousands of people in the neighborhood, aiming to propagate black culture, raise self-esteem, and develop consciousness regarding racial discrimination issues. Ilê Aiyê's carnival parade features a young woman called the Ebony Goddess, selected for her beauty according to Afro-centric standa rds of beauty, her mastery of African-originated dances including religious Candomblé dances, and her ability to inspire others through her personal history.

I spent much of Saturday of carnival inside Ilê Aiyê headquarters, which is also a Candomblé house of worship, and home of Dona Hilda, a Candomblé priestess and mother of Vovô, the founder of Ilê Aiyê. That was the first time I saw up close the process of preparing the Ebony Goddess, selected just a couple of weeks earlier, to be presented to the local community.

There was an incredible energy that came from the pride felt by each participant of the group. This was their defining moment, wearing afro-Brazilian clothes, dancing and singing the songs of the group, and showing to the rest of the world that they were proud of themselves and their culture.

Every time I go back to Bahia I notice that more people are willing to openly talk about discrimination and fight for their rights. There is still a huge portion of the black population that follows Euro-centric standards of beauty, straightening and coloring their hair so they look as white as possible, but there is also an ever-increasing number of black women who proudly display their black identity.

I hope the situation continues to improve, and that my film contributes to the evolution of how black women see themselves.