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Brazzil - Culture - March 2004

Brazil Spurned by Hollywood

Brazil's Cidade de Deus was shunned because it did not fit into
the make-believe world of cozy race relations which you find in
American films nowadays. Hollywood tries to portray a society
where segregation and prejudice play no role. Spend one day in
any big American city and you see how hypocritical this is.

John Fitzpatrick

Four nominations but no awards. Did anyone really expect Cidade de Deus (City of God) to win an Oscar? The build-up in to the ceremony in the Brazilian media was like the prelude to the World Cup final. Acres of newsprint were wasted on articles covering every possible angle on this film, which any foreign observer could have told you would get nowhere.

The Oscars may have a foreign category and non-American directors and films have often won prizes, but Hollywood is not really comfortable with films which are too realistic. The Lord of the Rings trilogy showed murder, mayhem and horror on a massive scale in a fantasy world whereas Cidade de Deus showed the same murder and horror in the real world and it was obviously not to the taste of the American judges.

Bearded sorcerers and hairy-footed hobbits were more in their line than homicidal teenage thugs recruited to fight a war for control of the drugs trade in a favela. How many of the powdered, pampered, narcissistic posers who attended the ceremony do you think even watched Cidade de Deus?

One of the reasons I believe the film was shunned was because it did not fit into the make-believe world of cozy race relations which you find in American films nowadays. Virtually every American film has leading black actors as Hollywood tries to portray a society where segregation and prejudice play no role.

Spend one day in any big American city and you see how artificial and hypocritical this is. A film like Cidade de Deus, with its cast of criminals and slime balls who are predominantly black, is unacceptable to the contemporary Hollywood "hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil" racial code.

It would be interesting to know if the film has been shown in any of America's black ghettoes. The views of America's counterpart gangsters would be of greater value than those of any liberal film critic or self-congratulatory Hollywood producer in a tuxedo.

At the same time, many Brazilians will be relieved that the film was shunned since they do not want the world to see this side of life here. The residents of the favela in Rio de Janeiro, where the film was made, know that winning an Oscar would have made no difference to their lives.

Will Dirceu Go or Stay and Does Anyone Care?

Meanwhile our own version of Hollywood, viz. Brasília, continues with its latest dreary tale—the scandal over a former aide to President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva's right-hand man José Dirceu. The aide, the splendidly-named Waldomiro Diniz, was fired after being filmed allegedly demanding bribes from a suspected criminal.

The media gave us another Oscar-style build up this week when Diniz was due to answer questions from the Federal Police investigating the affair. Diniz spent three hours during which 65 questions were put to him. His reply? Nothing. He maintained his right to remain silent and answer only to a judge.

Fortunately for the reporters who were deprived of a story Diniz did give them a quote. "At this moment I am the person most interested in finding the truth. I have confidence in Brazilian justice and the investigations which are being carried out", he said. How touching to see that someone in Brazil believes in Brazilian justice.

The press was also left with another non-story when a publicity-seeking Senator claimed he would prove that Dirceu knew what Diniz had been up to despite the minister's denials. The Senator, Almeida Lima from the PDT party, merely repeated the substance of an article which had appeared in a newspaper.

Another dud. The reporters were frustrated, the government was relieved and the electorate was uninterested. One poll showed that 67 percent of those questioned felt Dirceu should go but since only 2,306 people were polled this proves nothing.

São Paulo's Sleepy Hollow

The novelist V.S. Naipaul once said that Port of Spain in his native Trinidad was the noisiest city in the world. Obviously Naipaul, who deservedly won the Nobel Prize for Literature two years ago, had never visited São Paulo. Constant traffic, clapped-out cars and trucks, tooting horns, buzzing motor bikes, blaring radios, hovering helicopters, passing planes, howling dogs and loud-mouthed locals easily make São Paulo the noisiest city in the world.

However, if you are lucky you can find the odd quiet place and I will let you into a secret by revealing one. Ibirapuera park has lots of fairly quiet spots and if you go during the week you can often have a place to yourself. Sundays are different since at times it seems as if the whole city has moved there.

It can be frustrating trying to dodge the bikers, joggers, dog-walkers, chatterers, hot dog sellers, lovers, kids, beggars and assorted humanity which cram the place on that day.

Even on a Sunday there is a charming little corner near the plant nurseries where there is a reading room. This room is basically a hut with enough room for about six people. However, it has a large collection of magazines and some books and on a Sunday lots of people go there and sit in the sun reading.

It is one of the few places where you will ever see a group of Brazilians in silence. If you don't believe me go along some Sunday and see what I mean. If you missed that copy of your favourite magazine from five years ago you'll probably find it there since some of the magazines are more than a decade old.

Road Rage

Finally, good news about one of the main problems facing the city at the moment—that damn hole in Rua Bela Cintra in the Jardins. According to the society page of the Estado de S. Paulo newspaper, the hole, which so upset the moneyed classes as they passed by on their way to the Armani, Cartier and Tiffany shops, has been filled in. That's a relief.

However, there is some bad news as well according to the paper—apparently there is a problem with the newly-laid asphalt at the corner of Rua Haddock Lobo and Alameda Jaú. Tut, tut, tut. What is the city coming to? Maybe it's time to move somewhere else—Rio de Janeiro, perhaps? Cidade de Deus?

John Fitzpatrick is a Scottish journalist who first visited Brazil in 1987 and has lived in São Paulo since 1995. He writes on politics and finance and runs his own company, Celtic Comunicações - www.celt.com.br - which specializes in editorial and translation services for Brazilian and foreign clients. You can reach him at jf@celt.com.br
© John Fitzpatrick 2004

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