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David Poland

By David Poland

“Controversy” Over Brazil’s Oscar Entry?

So I just fell into this…

Pete Hammond ran a story on Friday, “OSCAR: Brazil’s Foreign Language Film Entry Causes Election Eve Controversy” that I hadn’t really paid any attention. However, Cinema em Cena editor and occasional MCN contributor Pablo Villaca was paying attention. (All politics are local.) And after tweeting something, he sent an extended lists of both subjective and objective errors in Pete’s piece.

Of course, the only reason why Pete would have any news to write about the the selection from Brazil would be someone in L.A. telling him/Deadline that there was a controversy. I have never known Pete to offer himself up as an expert on the film industry of other countries. He is certainly well versed in the reindeer games in this town. I don’t see this as a maliciously intended piece from Pete’s side of it, but it probably should have been spiked for lack of reporting.

At best, it seems to be a tempest in a teapot, At worst, it sounds like someone with a clear agenda of promoting one film and damaging another… and good guys like Pete certainly shouldn’t (and generally do not) put themselves in the role of promoting bad intentions, no matter where they are filing this season.

And for the record, Reuters bit on the controversy story as well, though the piece was much less harsh and included some of the detail that Villaca noted in his e-mail.

In any case, Pablo added in a second note that “the strategy behind (selecting) “Lula’s choice is obvious and it was stated by the committee: they hope the president’s international profile will attract attention to the film and raise its chances of being nominated. It’s as simple as that.” And outside of Oscar foreign language powerhouses like France, Spain, Italy, Israel, and Canada, that kind of angling is often behind the choices that are made.

So, here is what Pablo sent… make of it what you will…

(Hammond’s text in italics)

“(Lula) was chosen as Brazil’s official entry for the Academy Award’s Best Foreign Language Film race. Problem is, the selection came just 10 days before this Sunday’s Presidential election. Lula is not running again even though he enjoys a popularity rating of 75%, but his handpicked successor, Dilma Rousseff, is.”

First factual mistake: there are two different statistics regarding Lula. His government is approved by 77% of the population, but the president’s PERSONAL approval (or “popularity”, as Hammond puts it) is way bigger than he said: 85% – the biggest ever for a Brazilian president.

Another problem with Hammond’s reporting is that he doesn’t seem to realize that the fact the selection of “Lula” was announced 10 days before the election was something pre-scheduled by months. Every single year, this is the time the committee formed by the Ministry of Culture announces their selection – it just so happened that in 2010 we’re also having the election.

“Some factions are crying foul, saying the film was only chosen to boost Lula’s interests and help his protegé Rousseff’s by association”

This is his biggest mistake. This year’s election is one of the most dirty campaigns I’ve ever seen in Brazil. Lula’s opponent, José Serra, is known for his scare tactics during the elections and he’s being vastly supported by the Old Media. (I’ve nicknamed FOLHA, the major Brazilian newspaper, FOXlha.) So, every chance they had of slamming Lula and Dilma, they took. Every. Single. One.

But you know what? “Lula’s” selection as an Oscar hopeful wasn’t one of them. And you know why? Because the committee who chose the film was formed by people who are above suspicion, including Leon Cakoff, who is the head of Sao Paulo International Film Festival (the major Brazilian movie event) AND (get this) Cássio Starling, who WORKS for Foxlha (ops, sorry. Folha).

Although we’re not friends, I’ve known Cassio professionally and he’s a very good film critic and a good guy — and although I don’t think he condones Foxlha’s actions during this campaign, the fact remains that he works for them — so that alone stopped the Old Media and the opposition of slamming the choice as a political one.

And I repeat: this has been one of the dirties campaigns I’ve seen and even so Lula’s choice barely got any mentions on that context. I don’t know where Hammond got his report, but he’s just plain wrong.

“The argument against anointing the film, Lula, o Filho do Brasil (Lula, The Son Of Brazil) is given further credence because it was widely considered a commercial and critical flop when it opened earlier this year.”

Yet another mistake. Yes, the film was not a success. Actually, it disappointed its producers, who (unrealistically) had predicted a HUGE commercial success based on Lula’s popularity. But a “flop?” No way. And it wasn’t a “critical flop” either. It got mixed reviews – and deservedly so.

“Yet it beat 22 other candidates — while Rousseff has erased a one-time 10 point deficit in the polls and taken a new commanding 20 point lead heading into Sunday’s vote.”

Just to clarify:  Dilma had already surpassed José Serra by a huge margin waaay before “Lula” was announced as Brazil’s pick. There’s no link between the two facts.

“Many critics think Brazil’s selection should have been Wagner de Assis’ Nosso Lar (Our Home), based on a popular book written by the leader of Brazil’s spiritualism movement. That pic was reportedly the country’s most expensive home-grown production ever at about $11 million and has won high praise and big box office since its release a month ago.”

I hope that by “many critics” he doesn’t mean “film critics”, because “Nosso Lar”, although a commercial hit (every time we make a film that involves religion, it’s a hit), was panned by critics way  more than “Lula.” And, again, deservedly so. So I really don’t know how Hammond could say it has “won high praise”, because that’s just a plain lie. The film is mediocre at best and Brazilian film critics pointed that out consistently.

“But officials for Brazil’s government bodies that instead made the selection of the prez biopic  — The Culture Ministry, Brazilian Film Academy, and National Film Agency — deny politics played any part. Lula, o Filho de Brasil certainly is pedigreed. It is directed by Fábio Barreto, the youngest son of the well-known family of Brazilian film producers in Brazil, and covers the President’s life from his birth in 1945 to his emergence as a labor leader in the 1980s.”

Hammond neglects to inform that Fábio Barreto got into an accident while doing the press rounds for “Lula” and has been in a coma since January. And he probably won’t come out of it. I think that’s relevant, don’t you?

“We voted for the film we thought was best, one that honors Brazilian cinema and has an actress like Gloria Pires,” Brazilian Film Academy President Roberto Faria told Thaindian News. The vote was said to be unanimous but Nosso Lar producer Iafa Britz throws water on that in comments he made in Vega. “I’ve never seen anything unanimous in my life. I can’t think of a single example of unanimity, but I prefer to keep quiet and accept [the decision].”

First of all, it’s “Veja”, not “Vega”. And it fits that Veja printed Iafa Britz’s single protest, because the weekly magazine has been the Foxest of all the Fox-like publications during this campaign. Actually, Veja was the only one who tried to create a little controversy regarding the choice of “Lula”, but it gave up after just one article because it realized it wasn’t going to play.

Now… Britz’s extremely impolite, sore-loser comment was also extremely unfair. Like I said before, the committee was not formed by a group of nobodies. It’s a different group every year and this year it had some of the most respected names in our industry and our Academy, including Jean Claude Bernadet, who is revered as a film theorist. There’s absolutely no way that people like Bernadet and Cakoff would sit in silence if Roberto Faria was lying about the vote being “unanimous.”  No way at all. And they would no lack media space for their protests, believe me.

So Britz should follow his own advice and really keep quiet. His film was mediocre at best and he should be happy it was a commercial hit. Nobody would ever consider it as an Oscar hopeful.

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13 Responses to ““Controversy” Over Brazil’s Oscar Entry?”

  1. Wasn’t Pete the mouthpiece last year too for whoever was trying to scotch The Hurt Locker’s chances with Chartier email non-story?

  2. Oliver says:

    Pablo is very known in Brazil as a partial Lula’s militant party. I really don’t give a shit for his quotes.

  3. Every single information in my email can be easily checked using Google, Olivier. And the fact I like Lula’s government doesn’t change that.

    One more thing: I gave the film 3 out of 5 stars AND publicly criticized it’s choice to represent Brazil as an Oscar contender, so there you go.

  4. Francisco says:

    There is not controversy at all… The president’s international profile will attract attention to the film and raise its chances of being nominated. It’s simple as that.

  5. (its choice, not “it’s”. Damned iPhone spell checker!)

  6. bettaum says:

    It’s not true that “José Serra, is known for his scare tactics during the elections”.

    These are only Lula’s, Lula’s party and Lula’s radical militants claims – the true responsible for “This year’s election being one of the most dirty campaigns I’ve ever seen”.

    Political positions aside, it’s true that:

    “Some factions are crying foul, saying the film was only chosen to boost Lula’s interests and help his protegé Rousseff’s by association”

    But even as “some factions” really say that (which means the original article is correct on this point) I think they are wrong and agree with Pablo Villaça on his conclusion that “the strategy behind (selecting) “Lula’s choice is obvious and it was stated by the committee: they hope the president’s international profile will attract attention to the film and raise its chances of being nominated.”.

    By the way, the committee is wrong once again and the movie is terrible.

  7. Gustavo says:

    This is rather absurd.

    The selection of the aforementioned film was criticized, of course. The film wasn’t a box-office success and was not perceived as an artistic triumph either. There is no big political *controversy* here in Brazil at all because of that. LULA – SON OF BRAZIL wasn’t going to help Dilma Roussef’s favoritism to win the Presidential election. She didn’t and doesn’t need it. Because it was so underseen… Nobody cared for that movie.

    Every year the committee makes an apparently clueless choice that gets blasted anyway. The last time Brazil was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film was in 1999. That’s telling.

    What bothers me is that American readers from this blog will have their perception shaped by one perspective, which is the one consisting of politically biased words of a leftist movie critic who is also declared militant of Lula’s and Dilma’s allmighty party.

    Candidate José Serra’s “scare tactics” are…? What are they, exactly? Did anyone bother to explain that? Valid indictments of corruption, media censorpship and authoritarianism practiced by the party that is in power?

    Politics are local, indeed. Why Poland cluelessly tried to stick his nose in it is beyond my understanding.

  8. David Poland says:

    Well, Gustavo… I gave Pablo a place to respond to something in the US media. I would never have run it – and I don’t think Pablo would have written it – were it not in response to someone trying to make a big deal out of the selection.

    You don’t actually seem to disagree with the core issue, which is that there is no real controversy over the selection of this film. Pablo seems to agree that it wasn’t his favorite choice.

    You are welcome to offer your perspective here in comments. And if you feel that yours is a voice that would offer balance, I will be happy to give you your own entry on the blog.

    Let me know…

  9. Joao says:

    Sorry, Gustavo, but you’re a little wrong. Sometime ago (maybe 2 years), “The year that my parents went on vacation” stayed among the nine movies of the preliminary selection. However, Oscar is industry award… I’d rather win a million times a Cannes award that Oscar… This discussion is absurdity!

    And Pablo Villaça is the only good critic of cinema in Brazil that worthy respect.

    sorry for the bad english of high school and ‘uptime consultants’

  10. Brazifilmlindustryinsider says:

    David, what you,Pete from Nikki and Pablo are failing to notice is that the selection of “Lula” was political based , but not from the government.

    let me shine a light for you here. Roberto Farias, president of Brazilian Film Academy,”unanimously” selected Barreto’s film not because it has any merits or chance to win an oscar. he selected it because it’s a Barreto’s film. the brazilian film industry is a kind of a cartel. and the Farias and Barretos families are on the top of the tree.

    look at the last 40 years of brazilian submission for the oscars and you would think there’s only two filmakers in Brazil. Diegues and Barreto.
    exceptions only the years they didn’t release any film or the pressure of a major hollywood studio got in their way. actually, when did a Barreto film not being selected for oscar submission? i’m surprise Britz didn’t see it coming.

    at this point ,you will start to wonder how the Barreto’s always get funds for their films. it’s not like they have a good track record of critical and box office to prove. and believe me, there are plenty filmakers trying to get finance for their films in Brazil but never see a penny from the same sources the Barretos get their funds from.

    anyway, i think you guys barking at the Lula government are barking at the wrong tree.

  11. David Poland says:

    Just to be clear, I’m not noticing anything… just the middle man in this situation.

  12. iafa says:

    all my respect to any kind of person, thought or reflexion…… but please.. iafa is a name of a woman!!!!!
    it is quite funny to be treated as a man….

  13. Christy says:

    It is obvious that the former president bought everything in Brazil, including the choice of his mediocre movie. Our Home is much better than this trash.
    And sure Pablo is a militant of the PT
    (Party of the Unemployed/
    Bums). Lula never worked in his life!!! This is the

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