Written and Composed by Michael Jackson
Produced by Michael Jackson for MJJ Productions, Inc.
From the album HIStory: Past, Present and Future—Book I, released June 20, 1995
Released as a single March 31, 1996
THE SHORT FILM
Director: Spike Lee
Primary Production Locations: Rio De Janeiro (Dona Marta in the quarter Botafogo) and Salvador de Bahia, Brazil
Michael Jackson elected to create two separate short films for “They Don’t Care About Us.” These were the fifth and sixth of seven short films produced for recordings from HIStory: Past, Present and Future—Book I, Michael’s fifth album as an adult solo performer. As a single, “They Don’t Care About Us” reached the Top 10 in 16 countries, including the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy (where it reached No. 1) and New Zealand. In the United States, the song charted in the Top 10 of Billboard’s Hot Dance Music and Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles charts.
Spike Lee was the director for both short films for “They Don’t Care About Us.” This version was filmed throughout Brazil, including the favela (urban shantytown) of Dona Marta. The filming, which included 200 members of the cultural music group Olodum, was controversial, as government officials felt images of poor neighborhoods wouldn’t reflect well on the country. Despite an unsuccessful attempt to ban the shoot, filming proceeded, and even the imposing presence of more than 1,000 local policemen and security couldn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the local residents who were thrilled to see Michael perform on the streets of their neighborhood.
In retrospect, the shoot had a positive effect on the favela, which is now largely rid of the drug trafficking that plagued the area at the time. “He displayed great concern for everything in the country, with poverty, with street children,” local concert promoter Dodi Sirena told Billboard in 2009.
“This process to make Dona Marta better started with Michael Jackson,” agreed Claudia Silva, press liaison for the Rio De Janiero tourism office. “Now it’s a safe favela. There are no drug dealers anymore, and it’s a massive social project. But all the attention started with Michael Jackson.”