The cameras take a unique peak behind the scenes at one of the world’s greatest parties. But underneath the glamour lies a bitter rivalry.


Rio Carnaval is ‘the greatest party on Earth’. Hundreds of thousands of tourists rub shoulders with Brazilians from all walks of life in street parades across this beautiful but dangerous city.

The centerpiece of the world’s most famous five-day party is the Samba Parade – a competition on a vast scale. Thirteen neighborhood samba groups, each with five thousand costumed local dancers, parade aboard vast themed floats down a half-mile avenue. Watching them are a panel of expert judges, a hundred thousand spectators, and a TV audience of nearly half a billion. It’s a place where dreams can be realized but also a place where hopes can be shattered.

Inside Rio Carnaval takes us on an extraordinary journey into the secret worlds of two intense rival Samba Schools competing for this year’s crown.

The story picks up four weeks till Parade Day and the clock is ticking for Cid Carvalho.

He’s the new Chief Designer for Vila Isabel, last year’s Grand Parade champions. The flamboyant designer is responsible for creating the entire look for his school’s parade. Each of the thirteen samba schools chose their own theme, which must be interpreted with great style on an epic scale by designers like Cid.

Cid’s creation is being built on a vast scale in secret at Samba City. This brand new warehouse complex brings all thirteen-samba schools together for the first time. Each school builds their extravagant interpretations behind closed doors and away from the prying eyes of other groups. Such close proximity is unique in Carnaval history and competition has never been so intense.

It’s Cid’s first year at Vila Isabel but he’s already won the title at another School three years in a row. If he wins the crown for his new Samba School he will be elevated to cult status. But, such is the cutthroat nature of the business, that if he loses he’ll be looking for a new job.

Fernanda De Sousa is a beautiful twenty-four year old dancer with Mangueira, the Samba School that Cid Carvalho most fears. She has been dancing for them all her life and considers them family. They are Rio’s most established Samba School having effectively started Carnaval eighty years earlier. They remain the team to beat.

Mangueira is one of Rio’s poor neighborhoods known as a favelas; a place where drug crimes and homicides are commonplace. Fernanda lives in the heart of this hillside shantytown in a four-roomed house with her five year old daughter and twelve other relatives. While many of her childhood friends are now gun-totting drug dealers Fernanda believes that the Samba School and Carnaval offers the rest of the community real hope.

Fernanda lives for Carnaval and winning will bring her and the rest of the community great pride. But losing will bring greater tension to the area. Fernanda is worried for the safety of her daughter and family.

Inside Rio Carnaval unveils a world of charged personal stories, fierce competition and big business. Will Cid Carvalho have the vision and expertise to bring Vila Isabel the victory they so crave? Will Fernanda and her beloved Mangueira re-establish their role as Rio’s number one Samba School? Or will both of them face the heavy burden of defeat? With just twenty-eight days till Parade Day the heat is most definitely on.