Brazil's 'Lula, the Son of Brazil' vying for Oscar

Choice of President's biopic receives some criticism

BUENOS AIRES -- A commission formed by members of the Brazilian Ministry of Culture, the Secretary of Audiovisual Affairs, the National Film Agency, and the Brazilian Film Academy unanimously selected Fabio Barreto's "Lula, the Son of Brazil" to be the country's challenger for this year's Academy Award nomination for best foreign-language film.

Produced by L.C. Barreto, Equador Films, and Intervideo Digital, the film is based on the homonym book by Denise Parana, "Lula, the Son of Brazil" and portrays the life of current President Luiz Inacio "Lula" da Silva, from his deprived childhood to the height of his career as a union leader in the 1980s.

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Producer Paula Barreto was confident U.S. audiences will relate to a "self-made man" story about someone who overcame hardship. "It's an epic, grandiose film made by Hollywood standards", she said to Sao Paulo newspaper Folha.

The selection of Lula's biopic just a few days away from the presidential elections (where Lula's candidate, Dilma Rousseff, is the big favorite) raised some comments from local filmmakers about the supposed political motivation behind the choice.

"City of God" director Fernando Meirelles, an active supporter of the Green Party's candidate Marina Silva, acknowledged that "to see the incredible beginning of his career has an interest, no doubt. I don't know if this is a thought that went through the minds of the jury, I rather think it makes sense for a group that wanted a film that could have another purpose."

He also stated that "the character portrayed on a film can weight in the decision, especially when thinking of American voters who aren't following this pathetic end of the president's career."

Sandra Werneck, director of "Sonhos Roubados," one of the 23 films that competed for the Oscar bid, has said that the political connotation was there right from start when the film was released.

"I have a problem with politics governing over cinema," said Daniel Filho to the O Globo network at the Rio Film Fest Opening Night.

The director of box office hits like "If I Were You 2" and "Chico Xavier" commented that there were other films that could have better represented the country, like "5 x Favela," "Now by Ourselves," "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes" and "The Supreme Happiness," and also joked about the selected film's title "What was the name of the film? 'Lula, the Owner of Brazil'?"

President of the Brazilian Film Academy Roberto Farias defended the selection: "A very diverse jury reached a unanimous decision. This proves that the commission aimed for the best interest of Brazilian cinema, regardless of political reproaches or film press' opinions. The commission is far more prepared for selecting a film than the general audience, which can get carried away by the films they've just seen, particular preferences, or media repercussion. 'Lula' is an international figure. He may very well be our biggest star."

Indeed, polls indicate that "Lula" will be stepping out of his second term in office with an approval rate well above 80%, an internationally praised and booming economy, and a very realistic chance at getting a permanent seat on the U.N.'s Security Council.

The jury commissioned to select Brazil's candidate was composed of Cassio Henrique Starling Carlos, Clelia Bessa, Elisa Tolomelli, Frederico Hermann Barbosa Maia, Jean Claude Bernardet, Leon Cakoff, Marcia Lellis de Souza Amaral, Mariza Leao Salles de Rezende and Roberto Farias.

"Lula, the Son of Brazil" is scheduled for U.S. release sometime between February and March 2011, with local distribution handled by New Yorker Films.
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