i prefer to be insulted

by marcos warschauer, levi guimarães luiz,

victor bellem de lima, and thiago freire

As people living — in a broad sense — together, we cannot escape the notion that the terrible events we see around us are essentially our problems. They are our responsibility — regardless of whether they are from other people. — Amartya Sen

It is estimated that Brazil has more than 100,000 people living on the streets,¹ spending their nights sleeping under marquees, in public squares, beside streams, under overpasses and bridges, or even on the streets under tents built with plastic and pieces of wood. Between 2007 and 2008, the Ministry of Social Development of Brazil carried out nationwide research on the unhoused population in order to quantify and qualify the various factors that lead to being an unhoused person. According to the survey,² the three main reasons for being on the streets are alcoholism and/or drug use (35.5%), job loss (29.8%), and family conflicts (29.1%). The majority of this population is concentrated in large cities, is Black, and has a paid activity such as collector of recyclable materials, car watcher, porter, or urban cleaner. However, this income is not enough to cover living expenses and the cost of life.

One of the largest problems faced by this population is prejudice, as the story of unhoused designer Eric Batista in the documentary I Prefer to Be Insulted shows us. Unfortunately, this problem has worsened in recent years with the sharp increase in social inequality resulting from the current extreme right policy that governs Brazil.

During the documentary recordings, Eric read “The Third Bank of the River” by Brazilian author João Guimarães Rosa, a short story that tells us about a family man who made a canoe and went to live in the middle of the river. “Ele não tinha ido a nenhuma parte. Só executava a invenção de se permanecer naqueles espaços do rio, de meio a meio, sempre dentro da canoa, para dela não saltar, nunca mais.”³ Eric recognized himself in the tale, as a person who lives and works along the bank or margin of a river — in his case, a river of cars. And, throughout the film, he positions himself socially on the third margin — a place of existence for those who do not recognize themselves in our society — through his speech and the drawing he develops.

How many margins does your city have?

With the signature “I am Eric” written on the city walls, Eric draws our attention to the life on the streets of a large city in Brazil and, with his art, makes us reflect on inequality, invisibility, and prejudice experienced by marginalized people. The documentary I Prefer to Be Insulted follows the artist between traffic lights in São Paulo and reveals a rich and complex character.

¹ Brasil, Ministério do Planejamento, Desenvolvimento e Gestão. Estimativa da população em situação de rua no Brasil. Texto para discussão / Instituto de Pesquisa Econômica Aplicada. – Brasília: Rio de Janeiro: Ipea , 2016.
² Brasil, Ministério do Desenvolvimento Social e Combate à Fome. Rua, aprendendo a contar: Pesquisa Nacional sobre a População em Situação de Rua. – Brasília, DF, p. 83-105.
³ Translation: He had gone nowhere. Only carried out the idea of staying in those spaces of the river, half and half, always inside the canoe, to never leave there again. Quoted in: Rosa, João Guimarães. Primeiras Estórias. 15. ed., 3. impressão. Rio de Janeiro: Nova Fronteira, 2001, p.67.


Marcos Warschauer lives in São Paulo, Brazil. He holds a PhD in Sciences from the School of Public Health of the University of São Paulo where he studied the relationship between health, body practices, and leisure from a humanistic perspective. Using cartography as a method of investigation and intervention, Marcos’ work moves away from the hegemonic view of health as the absence of disease and from the idea that physical activity alone produces health. He conducts his research in the integrality of bodies and in the management of public programs and policies, delving into themes of bodily practices, territories, health promotion, intimacy, and autobiographical reports.

Levi Guimarães Luiz lives in São Paulo, Brazil. He is a journalist who graduated from Faculdade Cásper Líbero. He currently works at TV Globo — the main open television channel in Brazil — as editor of programs such as Esporte Espetacular and Fantástico. He develops series projects, feature films, and documentaries, mainly on themes related to human rights, race and gender diversity, inclusion of the disabled, immigration, and social inequality.

Victor Bellem de Lima lives in São Paulo, Brazil. He is a lawyer who graduated from the University of São Paulo. For four years, he worked as a writer, researcher, and content developer for a film production company well known for creating documentaries. He currently practices copyright law.

Thiago Freire lives in São Paulo, Brazil. He has a degree in Radio, TV, and Internet from the University of Fine Arts of the City of São Paulo. He is the director of  Naestrada Produções, a company that develops audiovisual products for the digital market with a focus on social networks. He also works as a director and producer of advertising campaigns.