Lula, the son of Brazil

Image: Petrit Halilaj


Comment on the film directed by Fábio Barreto

“I don't really know what it is / But I know it is what it will be / I wonder what it will be seen / It will pass by there.” (Chico Buarque, Assembly line).

If it is correct to say that cinema can educate the sensibility and even politicize, the film Lula, the son of Brazil confirms the premise for being impressive, above all, for the realistic construction of the title character. In addition to maintaining, without concessions, the narrative tension to the limit of what is necessary. Lula's biographical ballast and the use of the recent history of the ABCD metallurgist movement support the narrative, in order to reinforce the realism of the approach.

The latent tension derives from several films and documentaries, which preceded it and which, in a way, are incorporated. Thus, watching it is like reviewing many others correlated to the conditions of the working class, in a leap beyond them. After all, the workers' movement rehearsed its political emancipation between the 1970s and 1980s, in the Brazilian region where the labor-capital contradiction was most clearly outlined.

Lula, the son of Brazil is an adaptation of the homonymous book by Denise Paraná. The Author, founded on the concept of “culture of poverty” created by the North American anthropologist Oscar Lewis, resulting from research carried out in the cities of Mexico, Puerto Rico and New York, in a movement of construction of the concept “culture of transformation”, operates with mastery of the theoretical interpretation of the Lula phenomenon, from his relationship with his parents, based on ethical conduct, to the emergence of the highest-ranking union leader in contemporary Brazil.

The passage from the universe of traditional ethics filtered, especially by his mother Dona Lindu, to the contours of family ethics, to the limits of the ethics of responsibility, observed in Lula's decision-making vis-à-vis trade unionists and professional politicians, is exemplary. In other words, how was it possible to act politically without losing sight of the values ​​and principles that guided basic ethical training until the full development of its virtù policy? Thus, the most complex step was operated by the interweaving between the ethics of responsibility and the explanation of the political conflicts on the agenda in the labor struggle of São Paulo unionists.

In the film, the nexuses of ethical awareness and political action of the central character are very well explored, without didacticism. The same occurs when showing the dialectic movement of overcoming conserving, used by Lula to gradually dislodge the pelego Feitosa, then president of the São Bernardo and Diadema Metalworkers Union, from his position, apparently untouchable and in good terms with the repressive policy of the State , in the 1970s. As a hypothesis, perhaps this is the secret of President Lula's political success: to overcome while conserving, without losing sight of the essential social ballast of political decisions. However, the film ends before the founding of the Workers' Party.

In debate about the film Lula, the son of Brazil, held in the auditorium of the newspaper The Globe, in Rio de Janeiro, on December 09, 2009, director Fábio Barreto framed the film under the melodramatic epic genre. He said that a considerable part of the conception of the work is due to the cinematographic school of Italian neorealism, particularly to the film Rome, open city (1946), by Roberto Rossellini. In which the novelty was shooting in open environments, showing the harsh reality of poverty, unemployment, the city under Nazi rule, with virtually unknown actors, except for actress Anna Magnani.

In Barreto's film, in a way, all these elements are present. Actress Glória Pires, in the role of Dona Lindu, stands out in the film. The shots in old Mooca factories, as a stage for the workers' political action in the 1960s, and in Vila Euclides Stadium, setting for assemblies in the 1970s, where decisions about the direction of the metallurgist strikes took place, correspond in a certain way to forms the open environments of Rossellini's film.

The film maintains an internal dialogue with a series of other films, particularly documentaries, about the working class and the migration of people from the Northeast to the Southeast of the country. The only one mentioned by Barreto in the aforementioned debate was the big moment, by Roberto dos Santos (1957), considered a precursor of Cinema Novo. The film deals with the vicissitudes of the marriage of a worker in Mooca, a neighborhood in São Paulo, forced by circumstances to sell the only good available, a bicycle, to pay for a modest wedding party. Gianfrancesco Guarnieri, young, plays the protagonist in financial trouble and disenchantment. Indirectly, other films are contained in Barreto's, such as I Company, by Mario Monicelli (1963), inspired by the homonymous novel by Cesare Pavese. Marcello Mastroiani lives the unemployed professor Sinegaglia, a decadent aristocrat, who, on a visit to the Turin factory, helps the workers of a textile industry to fight for better working conditions, in the middle of the XNUMXth century.

The unavoidable reference to the film Dried lives, by Nelson Pereira dos Santos (1963), with migrants from the Northeast fulfilling the fate of the rural exodus, leaping from the pages of the homonymous novel, by Graciliano Ramos. The opening scenes of Lula, the son of Brazil, recall those of Dried lives, in which Átila Iório, in the role of Fabiano, leaves the hinterland with his family, accompanied up to a certain point by the dog Baleia. Still contained in Barreto's film is They don't wear black tie, by Leon Hirszman (1981), adaptation and updating of the play by G. Guarnieri, premiered on February 22, 1968 at Teatro de Arena, in São Paulo. During a factory stoppage, Tião, the son of an old union leader, breaks the strike claiming the proximity of marriage. The bride, a colleague from the factory, was pregnant. After all, she abandons him due to non-adherence to the movement.

The inaugural documentary portraying the links between the migratory flow from the Northeast to the Southeast, along with the social integration of the northeastern migrant in the most northeastern city in Brazil, was Viramundo, by Geraldo Sarno (1965), in collaboration with sociologists Octávio Ianni, Juarez Brandão Lopes and Cândido Procópio F. de Camargo. - A Way of the Cross of the migrant portrayed through underemployment, misery, charity and mysticism.

Some documentaries about the ABCD São Paulo labor movement are contained in Barreto's film. The first is Arms crossed, machines stopped, by Roberto Gervitz and Sérgio Toledo (1978). And, in two complementary versions in time, 1979 and 1992, ABC of strike, by Leon Hirszman, and Greve, medium length, by João Batista de Andrade (1979). It remains to be seen whether the outstanding documentary Assembly line (1982), by Renato Tapajós, filmed between 1978 and 1981, and pawns, by Eduardo Coutinho, filmed between 1979 and 1980, released in 2004, were also assimilated.

If the documentary is always a valuable historical clipping, temporal and dated, the feature film travels in time beyond the circumstantial aspect. It's what happens with Lula, the son of Brazil, made to “fall into the world”, paraphrasing the title character to his mother, at the beginning of the film. In a movement of estrangement and approximation, from the perspective of sensitivity education and politicization, watching Lula, the son of Brazil it's like watching so many others that, consciously and unconsciously, were incorporated into it, as an updated synthesis of the previous ones. Only slowly, without prejudgments or prejudices, is it possible to perceive such references and synthesis. After all, Chico Buarque's verses ended up prophesying a part of the history of contemporary Brazil.

*Antonio Jose Romera Valverde is a professor at the Graduate Program in Philosophy at PUC-SP.

Originally published on Earth Magazine, on January 09, 2010.



Lula, the son of Brazil
Brazil, 2009, 130 minutes
Directed by: Fabio Barreto
Screenplay: Daniel Tendler, Denise Paraná and Fernando Bonassi
book adaptation Lula, the son of Brazil, by Denise Paraná.
Cast: Glória Pires, Rui Ricardo Diaz, Lucélia Santos, Antonio Pitanga, Cleo Pires, Juliana Baroni.


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