OSCAR: Brazil's Foreign Language Film Entry Causes Election Eve Controversy

Is Oscar influencing presidential politics in Brazil? Controversy recently erupted when the movie biography of that country’s enormously popular President, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, 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. Some factions are crying foul, saying the film was only chosen to boost Lula’s interests and help his protegé Rousseff’s by association. 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 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.

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. 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. “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].”

Meanwhile, the official list of all foreign language selections should be announced by the Academy in about a week and, just like clockwork, you can probably expect even more controversy to rear its ugly head. It’s not new that some countries make their selection as part of an internal political agenda. But many filmmakers including Magnolia President Eamonn Bowle think something needs to be done about this. Bowles argues the foreign language film process has become too politicized in some countries like Italy which just snubbed his international hit, I Am Love, in favor of another lesser known film. (OSCAR: First Foreign Language Film Flap) Even though the Magnolia pic stars Oscar winner Tilda Swinton and is one of the year’s higher profile foreign language films and is grossing nearly $5 million in the U.S. alone. Instead, Italy selected La Prima Cosa Bella (The First Beautiful Thing), a local hit family drama that won good critical notice but doesn’t have nearly the international profile of the Swinton flick.

  1. Of course that it can be used as a political tool, this ´selection´ shouldn’t be done by any government at all. But I don’t think anyone in brazil cared, this kind of thing would never change the election here, after all, no one watched this movie and they are off the theaters already. The political move is to make Lula’s image to be more broadly known. He has high aspirations in the international stage, to act in Africa and Middle East most likely.

    But the funny thing is that Cidade de Deus was once the government selectios and this was a risk to the country’s international image and tourism, especially Rio. But then the Academy didn’t like it, too violent they said, only a year later that Cidade de Deus was recognized and got 4 nominations, but not the Foreign Film.

  2. I’m from Brazil and I hate the current president Lula and this government. I’m not alone. This government sucks and it’s based on lies. One example is his popularity ratings, 75%, 80% of the population likes and supports him according to official statistics. How can that be possible? 75%? This is a big fat lie. Lula has created a lot of myths about himself. This movie, “Lula, The Son Of Brazil”… What’s this? More myths. Don’t believe it! Don’t watch it. The government was expecting it to be a blockbuster in Brazil. LOL It failed pretty bad. Lula wanted an unconstitutional third mandate so bad. Fortunately, he didn’t get one. Lula has been forcing the population to vote for his successor, a terrorist – Dilma Roussef – through many unconstitutional/illegal ways. By the way, would you support someone who hugs Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and is friends with Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and the Castros from Cuba? Would you support political corruption? Would you like to live in a country without freedom of speech? No? So, you’re with us Brazilians tired of Lula’s government. That said, please, don’t let “Lula, The Son of Brazil” get an Academy Awards nomination. This movie doesn’t deserve it. Lula doesn’t either. He’s hated here in Brazil. 

    1. You mean he’s hated by you… come on, open your eyes, friend, Lula is by fair the most popular president ever since Getulio Vargas, and being successful or not in his actions doesn’t change the fact that I’ve never seen Brazil so strong economically inside and outside the country, so I guess he’s done a god job.

      About corruption, just because a lots of scandals have been revealed in his government doesn’t mean that he is the only one responsible for that, I think it’s a great thing that a lot of those corrupts were revealed while he was president because as far as I remember the other presidents didn’t care much about it and nobody found out about the corruptions going on back then – and don’t be naive thinking there were no corruption before Lula.

      And I think you really should get informed before saying stupid things like “Lula wanted an unconstitutional third mandate so bad” or “a terrorist – Dilma Roussef”. Did you really read the news? Lula never wanted to break any law, respectfully he is leaving the government proud of what he’s done. As for Dilma, if you call someone that fought the dictatorship a terrorist I’m really sorry for you, it shows how alienated you are and how easy you believe in all those things that media made it up in order to elect the poor Jose Serra.

      1. Agree with Maru, I live in Australia and it is the first time That the brazilian president is known and respected around here.Its funny talking about terrorism and lack of freedom…you have no idea how it was when Lula and all of us were figthing for freedom…those were bad times.

      2. Sorry, pearl!.. if you say so, you probably don’t leave in Brazil and don’t read brazilian news… the only people who “love” him are those in the north of Brazil who lives with about 140 Reais and a governement help for gas, milk, and so on… you will way “great!.. Lulla helps poor people”.. NO!.. he gives them tips, but don’t help them get along by them selves.. if not, how would he control his voting cast? And, sorry…hehehe.. you really don’t know a thing about brazilian economy!.. we don’t need a travelling clown (yes!.. 3/4 of his mandate, he was travelling outside Brazil, making dubious arrengements with guys like Ahmadinejad and Chavez) to go on!.. mostly half of the brazilian workers are informal, that means, they don’t have right on medical insurance, retirement, nothing!… the taxes created by Lulla’s governement made our country be the 3rd country in the world where you pay more taxes!! And look at our hospitals, schools, and so on… ask people who stay for days in the line to get a medical appointment or an emergency surgery.. ask them if they would vote on Lulla ever!.. come to our country and walk around.. talk to people… and you will see that what comes out in the news in your country, isn’t more that what our Itamaraty wants the World to see.. our press in beeing suffocated by the Lulla governement.. why so?.. have you asked yourself what could be this reason?.. so please, don’t tell us WE don’t know what’s going on over here!.. we live here and we FEEL perfectly all the crazyniess of this guy!.. He don’t gives a dam about “his” people, just uses them to keep stealing more money for himself and is partypartners… try once reading brazilian newspapers!

        1. The north of Brazil hates Lula as well, Mrs. and in case you don’t know, a huge part of his and his comrades votes comes from the southeast of Brasil, but his mainly electorate is from the NORTHEAST, study Geography before speaking. I always work during the period for voting and last year most votes were for 45 – PSDB, not for his party. Check the facts and statistics before speaking, Helene.

    2. I’m sorry about you and your feelings. You most not read Veja Magazine nor watch Globo TV any more. Get smarter! ;)

  3. Well, Lula is the most popular president after Gertúlio Vargas and a lot of people love him.

    He was elected because neoliberal politics were not very successfull – they did not solve some problems like rent distribution and unemployment.

    Unhappily, corruption rules Brazil, so we continues to have a lot of problems that could not be solved easily. But in Lula’s government, we could know about a lot of corruption actions because of the serious investigations – although we fell a lot of them are still hidden.

  4. There is something else this text does not mention – Nosso Lar was number one, with 72% of votes, at this contest the Ministry of Culture has opened through its website for people to vote as well. Lula, the movie, had the “wonderfull” amount of 1,2% only. So, as Nosso Lar leads boxoffice in Brazil (ahead of Wall Street and Resident Evil 4) for the late 5 weeks, and it is gonna be the biggest hit of the season – who knows all times – people really understood that their will never was taken care by the politics and academy members who voted.

  5. I like Lula’s government and what they are making to us, in Brazil, but I think this movie should be done 10 or 20 years later. It’s a historical movie.
    Fábio Barreto suffered an accident after making the film. He was not spiritually as protected as all presidents are. It was really hard for a great spiritual leader and the director’s personal friend to come near him in OBE (out-of-body experience), as the protection became huge after the accident. Barreto should not have made the film while Lula was still the President.

    I really wishe the movie that will go to Oscar is Nosso Lar. Great movie, from a better book. Wach it and you’ll see how it is after death.

  6. @Brazilian Reader. Please dont be unfair or a lunatic. Liking or not Lula IS the most popular president Brazil ever had and the public quite simply adores him.

    He did a good job and most important, democracy is respected in our country, look at the likes of Venezuela and we notice that at least the democratic process in Brazil is respected.

  7. It´s so obvious…it´s a politic decision…more than 4 milion people watched Nosso Lar, so how many did watch the other one??? It is not a popular vote/decision it´s political putting they´re finger where they should not be allowed to do. Someone in somewhere told us we live in a democracy, I don´t think so. There is only one loser in all this issue…brazilian movie scene. Bad decission!!!

  8. Lula , the president, is one of the best Brazil ever had. if not the best. and it’s tough to say this about any politician at all. although he’s not singularly responsible for the strong economy Brasil is enjoying at moment (it’s the other countries that are doing pretty badly). but,at least, he’s not ripping it apart like Chaves.

    Lula , the film, is an awfully mediocre biopic melodrama. everyone knows the Barreto family have the monopoly of the film industry in Brazil. The Barreto family have all the right connection in politics and hollywood for that matter.Their films alway get trough the oscar selection but sadly they haven’t got the talent to make good films and ,terribly, they get in the way of better films to be nominated. probably , it’s the same thing going on in Italy right now.
    Nosso lar is a better film, but not a notable one. in fact there wasn’t any good film to represent Brazil for the oscars this year. speaking as a brazilian.
    oh well , in the end no “I am love” or “Lula” will be selected. not when you have Biutiful, Of Gods and Men, Sons of Babylon and ,the winner in my opinion, Uncle Boonmee.

  9. It’s not governmental pressure, it’s the Brazilian Academy. The Barretos and their friends have always ruled the film bodies. It’s not the national politics that is the problem, but the old-timers in the film bodies that choose the same people, same family year after year. Boring.

  10. I’m brazilian and I not like the Lula’s movie. The movie Nosso Lar is very good for many reasons. I am against the choice of the Lulas’s movie and there’s a movement in Braszil because of this choice.

  11. Now, what is going on with brazilian writers? How can they say Brazil has the most popular president since Getulio Vargas? You mean by low rent people, who gets money for doing nothing, no work, no responsibilities!
    And that movie that is named to go to the Oscar is soooo awful as is this president that I met VERY WELL at the time he used to make problems when we wanted to go to work! You gotta be kidding….
    There are many brazilian good movies but so far, Nosso Lar is one of the best I have ever seen and it deserved at least the nomination!
    C’ommon people, wake up!!!

  12. I prefer the Our Home (Nosso Lar) representing Brazil!!!Not only, it is beautiful but a very well done movie!!! Beyond Chico Xaviers’ History!!! Thank you!!!

  13. I completelly agree with Janaína: Nosso Lar (Our Home) would represents better Brazil in Oscar… Lula’s movie in the indication is totally politicians matters and do not reflect brazilians opinion to represent in Oscar. I hope the staffs from Oscar deny this politician movie and allow Nosso Lar…

  14. Lula was definetly not the best brazilian movie made this year. It was picked as our contender for the Foreign Language Film based on something else than its qualities, but to say it would somehow influence elections is just ridiculous. Only a tiny percentage of the elite ( which itself is a really tiny portion of Brazil ) even knew this happened. It probably just had something to do with the friendship the selector had with both Lula and the producers.

    Lula is one of the most popular Presidents this country ever had, wether you like him or not. And it’s not just the poors who approve him, a good portion of the middle and upper class do so as well. However, the media is obviously against him, so it overly exposes the criticism, and it never shows the approval he has among the middle classes.

    Lula is not a good movie, but to prefer Nosso Lar to be our contender is just ridiculous. There were tons of other better movies made this year, but Nosso Lar is nothing else than a big piece of religious propaganda. I don’t really care if you believe in spiritualism or not, but if you don’t, this movie becomes a comedy, based on how little cinematic value it has.

    It’s a great movie if you follow the religion, but if not, it’s a crappy one. That’s not the kind of movie that should’ve been nominated either.

  15. Should be said that Nosso Lar was not supported to be Brazil’s candidate by a single critic that I know of. It is a major box office hit, but is widely considered to be one of the worst films of the year by most critics.

    And Lula’s movie was a propaganda film, financed entirely by companies that either received government money during Lula’s administration, and was designed to boost Lula’s popularity and help his candidate to win the election.

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