Lula biography hits Brazilian screens
A big budget feature film recounting the early life of Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva hits the screens on New Year’s Day and is likely to have a heavy impact on the forthcoming election to replace him as Brazil’s president.
The film, entitled “Lula, Son of Brazil”, is a tribute to the hugely popular president who will complete two terms in office on the last day of 2010. It starts with emotional scenes of his dirt-poor childhood then shows him suffering at the hands of an abusive father, watching his first wife die in childbirth, and losing a finger in an industrial accident.
Most of all, it romanticises his rise to power as a union leader and his struggle against Brazil’s military dictatorship. Throughout the two-hour movie, Lula is portrayed as a working class hero who can do no wrong. Brazil is emerging from the global downturn in better shape than most of the world’s largest economies and Lula’s image has been substantially boosted. The once-controversial union man is seen widely as a respected leader of a country set increasingly to sit at the top table in international negotiations. His personal approval ratings regularly nudge 80 per cent, leading Barack Obama earlier this year to call him “the man”.
Strategists with Lula’s Workers’ Party hope the film will keep his popularity high and boost his chosen’s successor’s chances in the October election. Lula cannot run for a third term so he has chosen Dilma Rousseff, a 62-year old former guerrilla fighter who is now his main facilitator in government, to continue his work.
“They are trying to keep him popular and create the myth of Lula as a Brazilian Mandela or a Brazilian Gandhi,” said João Augusto de Castro Neves, a political analyst in the capital Brasilia.
“They believe he can transfer his popularity to Dilma. But the risk for Dilma is that by glorifying him so much anyone else looks very human beside him. She is not charismatic, she was not poor and did not pull herself up, and so the contrast with Lula is more visible.” The film stars mostly unknown actors and has a budget of around £2 million.
Its initial release on 500 screens is a record for a domestic film. Only 7 per cent of Brazil’s 5,564 municipalities have cinemas and tickets are prohibitively expensive for all but the most well off. However, the film will be shown in poor parts of the country on mobile screens, while union members can buy reduced tickets in big cities.
“We are looking for different ways to show it,” said the film’s producer Paula Barreto. “The biggest problem will be getting people who don’t like Lula to go and see the film,” she acknowledged.