Foreign Policy Blogs

Brazil's Son

Lula, o Filho do Brasil, the film by Fabio Barreto that was recently released in Brazil, has been controversial since its release. The biopic about President Lula da Silva has come under fire for various reasons, including the plot and the political message.

Brazil's Son

While President Lula is a popular president with high approval ratings, the film frames him as a Hollywood hero, cutting out parts of his life that would threaten his image, including details about his private life and controversial parts of his career. When the international media pointed out the missing scenes, the director was quick to defend his film, and Lula’s estranged daughter even wrote to the New York Times to complain about their coverage of the film.

In addition, the film’s sponsors, who receive funding from the federal government, were accused of trying to curry favor with the PT, particularly if its candidate wins the 2010 presidential election. That candidate, Dilma Rousseff, is at the center of the main political controversy surrounding the film: some are accusing Lula of using the film to start an early campaign for Dilma, who is Lula’s hand-picked successor that he is openly supporting.

In fact, the opposition has taken the case to Brazil’s Supreme Court, accusing Lula of “anticipated” campaigning before the official campaign season begins. Since candidates are only permitted to start their political campaign on a given date during the election year, the film is being seen as a way to promote Dilma and the Worker’s Party.

Though there are plans underway to bring the movie to remote and/or impoverished parts of Brazil, the film hasn’t exactly been a box office success compared to other Brazilian movies. It’s currently #7 at the box office, behind Xuxa’s new movie and Alvin and the Chipmunks, amongst others. While it did manage to draw 361,000 viewers in the first week of its release, the Brazilian comedy Se Eu Fosse Você 2 released last year on the same date brought 800,000 viewers its first week. By comparison, Avatar has been seen by over six million Brazilian moviegoers in the five and half weeks since its release.

But the most important question, the one that the Supreme Court must decide, is if the movie is in fact a not-so-subliminal message for Brazilian voters, and if the film has had or will have a definitive impact on the electorate during this crucial election year. According to the Economist, Dilma has quickly caught up to her main opponent, Jose Serra, and is now only 14 points behind him. Could a movie really give her the edge she needs?



Rachel Glickhouse

Rachel Glickhouse attended the George Washington University, where she studied Latin American Studies and Spanish at the Elliott School of International Affairs. She studied abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina and Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. She spent two years living in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil after graduating in 2007. She now lives and works in New York.