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Brazil Spurned by Hollywood

 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.
by: 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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