Raimundo Arruda Sobrinho has a very special gift he’d like to share with the world.
A gift, that until recently, was hidden away from the public eye. Hidden behind people’s perception of him, and perhaps more literally, hidden behind scattered piles of trash.
The documentary below details the saga of Sobrinho, who spent 35 years living on a grassy street island in São Paulo. Every day he was focused on perfecting his passion. Every day, Sobrinho was writing poetry.
In 2011, a woman by the name of Shalla Monteiro inched her way onto Sobrinho’s island to introduce herself. From her interview in the film, it became clear that after this initial exchange, the odd couple would find themselves inextricably linked.
“When I saw Raimundo for the first time, he gave me one of his poems,” Monteiro explains. “From that moment, he started to become a part of my life.”
Monteiro found herself getting closer to Sobrinho, and learned about his desire to one day publish his poems. “Hope is the heaviest weight a man can carry. It is the bane of the idealist,” reads one such poem. Recognizing that Sobrinho’s hopes may never be realized, Monteiro took it upon herself to help him lift this heaviest of weights.
A Facebook page was created by Sobrinho’s new friend to serve as a stage for displaying his works of art to the world. The 100,000-plus “likes” the page has received to date would indicate that the world has responded to his gifts quite favorably. “People started to get close to him, to talk to him,” reveals Monteiro. She wanted people, as well as Sobrinho himself, to see that, “He is a man. He is an artist.”
Amazingly, one of the individuals who found his way to the Facebook page held a key to unlocking Sobrinho’s past, and would ultimately pave a loving path for his future. That individual is Sobrinho’s brother.
“After 57 years I was able to find you,” an emotional brother admits to the camera, as if speaking to Sobrinho himself. “When I arrived at the Island,” Sobrinho’s brother recalls, “I found a man in the midst of garbage, hairy and unshaved.” Undeterred by his homeless brother’s condition, he suggests that Sobrinho come home and live with him and his family in Goiânia, Brazil.
When speaking on what Sobrinho’s absence meant to the rest of his family, his brother says, “He was the one missing to complete the emptiness we had.” It had been nearly six decades of separation, but thanks to Monteiro’s belief in a homeless man living in isolation on a street island, not only are Sobrinho’s poems being shared with the world, but his family is once again whole.
On Feb. 4, 2014, in honor of Facebook’s 10th anniversary, the social media website chose the touching story of Monteiro, Sobrinho, and his family to be one of the 10 films to represent the power of connecting people all over the world.