Brazil Keeps Soviet Union Tradition of Financing Bad Art with Taxpayers’ Money

Lula, the Son of BrazilWhen I lose my capacity to get outraged I’ll know I’m becoming old, used to say André Gide. If so, Brazil promises me eternal youth. In the throes of the last century, Cristovam Buarque, former governor of the Federal District, stated on his Season’s Greetings card: “The twentieth century has created the computer and the flanelinha (stop-sign windshield cleaning boy), the spacecraft and the trombadinha (pickpocket minor), the robot and the pivete (child thief), the Internet and the glue sniffer.”

The sophism not only went unpunished, it has been mentioned as a moment of brilliance for the governor.

If I were the twentieth century, I’d sue this gentleman for slander and would still demand compensation for moral damages. For he who created the computer and the spacecraft was not the century, but the United States. As for flanelinhas, trombadinhas and glue sniffers, these institutions are our own original stuff, made in Brazil. A talented creator of sophisms, the governor mixes in the same bag technological advancement and misery and blames them on time.

As far as I know, Europe lives in the same century as ours and we don’t find there flanelinhas, trombadinhas and glue sniffers, institutions that, like class judges, college presidents elected by deans of discipline and postdated checks are typically Brazilian. The governor’s phrase is typical of jingoists: Brazil is beautiful and its ills are consequence of passing time.

Earlier this year, I commented on a brilliant bill by the senator, that was about to be discussed at the Senate’s Education Committee, proposing that Brazilian students from public and private schools should watch at least two hours of national films every month.

Well, last December, the man who is called son of Brazil, signed a decree fixing the minimum number of days for Brazilian movies to be shown in cinemas across the country. Each room should exhibit in 2010 28 days of domestic films. It seems that it was not enough. His biography (Lula, the Son of Brazil), despite the discounted tickets distributed to unions, didn’t take off. Even another crook, Chico Xavier, drew more public.

The Internet has put forward an interesting thesis, that Fábio Barreto, the director of Lula, the Son of Brazil, made a mistake to paint his character as an undefiled hero. That Brazilians don’t like untainted heroes. If Lula had been painted as he really is, a rogue adept of the Gerson law (under which the person likes to take advantage of everything). the film would be more believable. Is there a mass of helpless youngsters in the school system? Then throw Lula, the son of Brazil, down the throats of those generations.

The measure is mandatory. Rosalba Ciarlini, Senator for the DEM,  a party as venal as the PT (the ruling Workers Party), gave two completely different opinions about the bill. Last May, she wanted to shelve the legislation. “This kind of rule, for its rigidity, while it can serve interests diverse and foreign to the school, it contributes little or nothing towards the improvement of education. Rather, it can decrease the degree of autonomy and flexibility of schools.”

In November, at the launching of the hagiology to chief illiterate Lula, senator Ciarlini had only praise for the proposal on the grounds that the compulsory national film showcase in schools “will be beneficial to both students and film industry. Domestic production, with rare exceptions, has high artistic quality and irreproachable content plus diversity in theme as well as in audience.” What the senator proposes in reality is the mandatory display of a fiction about the most illiterate, most incoherent, biggest liar, most corrupt and the biggest concealer of corruption that Brazil has ever had in its republican days.

I’ve just read today in Veja online that the Senate approved the bill presented by the stupid senator. The proposal had final vote in the Education, Culture and Sports Committee and now heads to the House of Representatives before being signed by the president. If the law is enacted, elementary education schools in the country will have to separate at least two hours a month for exhibition of national cinema.

The national arts are so great that they now live on handouts from power. Writers and filmmakers, painters and sculptors, stage actors, they are all humble supplicants for government funds. They pass their hat to the federal government and live on public charity.

According to Buarque, the project will stimulate the formation of public for the Brazilian cinema. He believes that children and teens who have access to movies now are going to develop aesthetic sense and will learn to appreciate the country’s film industry, today made primarily through tax incentives and public funds. “In the medium and long term, the public can actually finance the film, as in other countries,” says the uninformed senator.

Which other countries, senator? Are Your Excellency, referring to the defunct socialist nations, where all art depended on the complacency of power? Or the United States, where a Coppola was almost bankrupt to produce Apocalypse Now, but has not received a penny from the state? Or Italy, which produced a Fellini – and so many other genius filmmakers – without ever putting their hands into the pocket of the taxpayers? Or other Western countries, where cinema is a matter of industry and not government handout?

For the filmmaker and teacher of the Audiovisual course at University of Brasília, Dacia Ibiapina, the bill will be well received among producers and filmmakers, who live with a limited exhibition market. “The ideal was of course that Brazilians had interest in their own cinema, but as we live in a country where the film industry has great difficulty in asserting itself and many movies will not even be released, mechanisms such as this law can help reverse this situation.”

Of course this law will be very well received by producers and filmmakers, these corrupt artists who fail to make decent art and depend on the state to sell their rotten fish. For Pete’s sake I, as a Brazilian, have to see Brazilian movies? I see the movies that I like, what the hell! Distributors already impose on us the Yankee cinema, the Titanics, Lost Arks and Avatars of life. Now the Brazilian government decides to impose the national lemons. The lemons of the North at least have better grammar.

It’s not enough that taxpayers fund the mediocrity that makes movies, theater and literature in Brazil, now the children of the taxpayers will have to get down their throats  the “works” – in the pejorative sense of the word – of the mediocre friends of power. The measure has a totalitarian bias that was not even dreamed of by communist countries. Moreover, it didn’t need to be imposed, since all movies were from the state. But at least it was not compulsory in schools.

While these days we fight against the teaching of religion in schools, it is time to fight a far more serious measure, the senator’s bill. The Senate has already swallowed it. The House will certainly approve it. And it is obvious that the son of Brazil will sign it.

Can you imagine your child being forced to watch odes to Lula and Chico Xavier? Plus apologies to terrorists and drug traffickers? This corruption, with funding from the legislature, no newspaper denounces. The newspapers are complicit. Their pages harbor and praise writers, actors and artists who are pimps of power. People who are worthless by their works and who are only known because they are imposed to a defenseless public. The Soviet Union died two decades ago. And Brazil continues funding venal writers and artists, as did the communists in the past century.

In my view, the bill of Senator Cristovam Buarque is not ambitious enough. It should go much further. With two more hours of mandatory national theater. Another two with Globo TV offerings. Still two more of Caetano Veloso, Chico Buarque and Gilberto Gil. Plus two additional hours of Xuxa and Sílvio Santos. And two more – why not? – of Edir Macedo and R. R. Soares (two famous church founders).

All for the national culture’s sake!

Janer Cristaldo – he holds a Ph.D. from University of Paris, Sorbonne – is an author, translator, lawyer, philosopher and journalist and lives in São Paulo. His e-mail address is

Translated from the Portuguese by Arlindo Silva.


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