The story of a former lathe operator who became union leader and for three times ran as presidential candidate until becoming in 2002 the Brazilian president is premiering this first of the year in 400 theaters all across Brazil.
“Lula, the Son of Brazil” was preceded by a series of ads on billboards, radio, prime-time TV and Brazil’s” leading newspapers.
“You know who this man is but still don’t know his history,” said the text of a full-page ad appearing on New Year’s Eve in all major Brazilian newspapers.
The film is based on the authorized biography of the president written by Brazilian journalist and historian Denise Paraná
“In 1992 I decided to do my doctoral thesis on Lula,” she told Isto É news magazine. “I told him I would like to know what clay he was made of. He agreed to give interviews and allowed my access to his family. There was no analysis that sought to understand his character, although understanding Lula is essential to understand the history of contemporary Brazil.
“I have advised his campaign in 1989 and worked with Lula in the parallel government since 1990. I was impressed with his unusual intelligence coupled with a powerful intuition. He has a unique way to reason, to go beyond, to achieve what few achieve. Hi is a unique self-taught person.”
Actress Glória Pires, a Globo TV star famous for her soap opera roles, who plays Dona Lindu, Lula’s late mother, came out in defense of the film after some critics called it political propaganda. 2010 is a presidential election year and Lula has already chosen his candidate (chief of staff Dilma Rousseff) although he is not a candidate himself.
“The film is not political,” said Pires. “This whole thing people are talking about is nothing but speculation. This is not the real purpose of the film.”
According to the actress, the film by director Fábio Barreto is, above all, a heartwarming story.
“The aim of conveying a message of resilience is accomplished. Everyone who sees it gets involved with the film and leaves the theater moved. I got extremely moved myself. I am very happy with the result.”
Barreto in 1995 directed O Quatrilho, the first Brazilian movie nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film since O Pagador de Promessas, from 1962. He is now in serious condition in a Rio hospital after being involved in a car accident on December 19 in Botafogo, a neighborhood in the south side of Rio de Janeiro.
Lula as an adult is played by the virtually unknown actor Rui Ricardo Diaz who comes from the stage. He plays Lula during his years as union leader in the industrial belt of São Paulo, the ABCD, the region where he moved to as a child after migrating from the Northeast.
The actor also says the film is not political: “It’s just the life story of a great Brazilian.”
He admits being a great admirer of Lula: “He is a historical figure, he has a spectacular life trajectory. I always thought him to be an incredible guy, and the film showed me a side of his life I didn’t know.”
Diaz commented on the episode in which Lula’s first wife, Maria de Lurdes (Cleo Pires) and their first child die: “They died during childbirth. When I heard this story I thought, ‘I do not believe this guy had the strength to continue.’ But he went on, he is persistent.”
Talking about the scene that shows the accident in which Lula loses a finger at work, Rui says, “It was emotionally very intense. To make it more credible we use camera techniques.”
Lula, the Son of Brazil, lasts 130 minutes and it cost about US$ 10 million, one of the most expensive movies ever shot in Brazil.
Luis Carlos Barreto, the film’s producer and the director’s father, is betting high on the movie’s success. He also produced Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands, the most watched film in Brazilian history.
The producer says he expects 20 million people will come to see the movie. To bring in more people Lula, the Son of Brazil will also be screened in unions, churches and community centers at promotional prices.