Friday, November 02, 2007

All Saints Holiday. Another Brazilian public holiday and another trip for us Joao Pessoa to be with the family. The day takes a predictable course: 1) arrive at lunch time 2) eat lunch at 3pm 3) chat/snooze/banter with Rachel's extended family and eat cake 4) go and get ice cream or milkshakes from a special choice outlet 5) stand around the cars talking about leaving 6) leave for Natal in the dark when all day we thought we would leave early so as to drive in the light 7) pray we are not stopped at the police check 8) arrive late and exhausted and thanking God we survived the trip on the unlit main road...

Tropa de Elite. A film has come out in Brazil which has everybody talking. It is based on a book which in turn is based on interviews with the real Tropa de Elite of Rio. Tropa de Elite (Elite troop) is a police force who are attempting to reign in the crime and drug trafficking in the slums of Rio de Janeiro. The film portrays extreme violence and the brutality of life in the favela as seen through the eyes of Captain Nascimento and his armed men. The trailer is on YouTube and you can watch it here if you want to, but you have been warned!

But, here's the rub. According to Wikipedia a staggering 11 million people saw this film before it's official launch date. This was made possible by some workers from a subtitle company leaking the English version of the film into the informal market. Up and down the countries illegal DVDs were sold in streets before the movie even hit the cinemas. One of my students even brought it in to show our class. This controvesy has only boosted the films popularity and notoreity and the cinemas are packed with people seeing this film in its "official" format. By all accounts it is very good, although it's portrayal of violence is stark and senseless. According to one of my students, it is MORE violent than City of God - a film which, if you have seen it I think you'll agree, pushed the envelope for on-screen violence in its portrayal of gang warfare in Brazil's desperate inner city communities.

All this raises the thorny question of legality in distributing arts - be it film, music or some other medium. Our British ethical codes, and some might say our Christian ones, leave us in no doubt that we should pay a fair price for a product so that the government, the shops and the producer get their cut. Brazilians are much more hazy on this issue. One student even wrote an essay for me about it - she pointed out that for many of Brazil's poor the only way they can participate in a culture of arts is by buying illegal because the RRP is too high. This underlines a social trait which us Westerners find hard to understand - individual gain is always prized above the public or national good.

Others see the informal market as a far more efficient form of distribution (especially to regional places such as Natal) which ultimatley only raises the profile of a film which in turn will bring rewards to the makers (Tropa de Elite being a case in point). And more than one person has told me that they see the Police buying illegal DVDs - and if the Police are doing it, why can't they? Finally on this, a scandal hit a couple of years back when it was revealed President Lula himself, who of course publically decries the distribution of pirated material, watched an illegal DVD on his private jet... so then, what are we to do?

What do you think? I'm slowly learning that there is more that blogger can do than just simply posts for blogs. For example, I've found a funky "widget" that allows me to ask your opinion in a survey (to the left, to the left <<<). So, what do you think? Please answer, it will make my day!

ACCORDING TO BOB: The view from the Andes.
According to Bob, the Chilean police are not corrupt - at least, not on the level of interacting with civilians. If you attempt to offer a bribe to a Chilean policeman who has pulled you over for speeding he or she will be very unimpressed (be warned you Brazilians). It is beyond me how the Chilean police, who were the strong arm of the Pinochet dictatorship, have turned out to be, in just a few short years, reliable and trustworthy with respect to their own people and a model of descency and transparency for the whole of South America. If I had had the time, I would have asked Bob more about this...

According to the lady over the road with the bug eyes and the poodle... the reason we had a power cut on Wednesday night was because somebody drove a car into an electricity post in our neighbourhood. We had another power cut on Thursday morning and I'm sure she has a theory for that one too. For a short while, it felt like we were back in Chad visiting my parents where powercuts are two a penny.

BRA, an update. To conclude this already long-in-the-tooth entry, we've been chortling to ourselves at reports in the Brazilian media about the debacle that is BRA - the airline I flew to and from Europe with this summer. Diario de Penarmucano (read by Rachel's Dad) posted a series of reports, which became something of a soap opera. Some customers had been stranded in Recife airport for 24, then 48, then 72 hours waiting for a BRA flight. Their plane had mechanical problems but BRA had no way to transfer any of their 10 aircraft to Recife to assist the passengers as all 10 aircraft were in use elsewhere. The Brazilian Aviation Authority have banned BRA from selling tickets for international flights as a result, tee hee hee.

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