Morrinho ['little hill' in Portuguese] began in 1997 as the plaything of a 14-year-old boy in Pereirão, a hillside favela of Rio de Janiero. It's a toy model of the favela itself, constructed on an abandoned hill out of scavenged bricks and other materials. It eventually grew to cover over 3,000 square feet, and its founder Nelcirlan and his friends began using Morrinho as the stage for little dramas of favela life, enacted with Lego block characters [not minifigs, either, just blocks].
In 2001, filmmaker Fabio Gaviao went to make a documentary about Morrinho, and ended up founding a non-profit, teaching the kids video production, helping them turn their stories into movies. Different kids control different areas of Morrinho; some of their films focus on turf wars between these areas. The whole thing is like a video game, GTA4: Rio, only all handmade from debris by kids living inside the real thing.
People began to take notice, long story short: the Morrinho Project have exhibited re-created versions of Morrinho all over the world--including at the just-opened Venice Biennale. Last fall, they produced an animated series for Nickelodeon Brazil. A Morrinho DVD was handed out to VIP's at the opening of the Biennale. At the moment, it is not in commercial release. Stay tuned, though.
Fico Assim Sem Voce, above, is a retelling of Romeo & Juliet in the original Morrinho. Lagrimas e revolta is a demonstration after a drug dealer is killed. [The role of 4kg of cocaine is played by a stack of dominos.]
TV Morrinho [tvmorrinho.com]
Fabio Gaviao's YouTube channel has videos of the Biennale and other setups, plus a few TV Morrinho shorts [youtube.com]
The Morrinho Project flickr stream [flickr]
A video panorama of Morrinho Venice, which is in an incredible site in the Giardini, right in front of the US pavilion [youtube]
2004 article about an exhibition in Spain [brazzil.com]