RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil – “Lula, the Son of Brazil,” a movie directed by Fábio Barreto and which opened on Jan. 1, has continued to gain attention for its tremendous script and tremendous budget.
It’s the most expensive film in the country’s history, with a R$12 million (US$6.9) budget.
The film tells the compelling story of Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva from his birth in 1945 until the death of his mother, Dona Lindu, in 1980, when he already had emerged as a leader of the workers’ union.
The political part of Lula’s story, such as his outstanding social program “Bolsa Família,” a welfare system that helps the poor, and his earlier failed attempts to become president were left out.
Lula ran for president in 1989, 1994, and 1998 before winning office in 2002. He was re-elected in 2006.
Lula’s international acclaims, which include being named the Latin American Personality of the Year by Spanish newspaper El País, being named one of the top 50 most influential people in the world in the last decade by the British newspaper Financial Times and being named Man of the Year by French newspaper Le Monde, are not mentioned in the film.
“Lately, people abroad have stopped asking about Pelé or Ronaldo and have begun asking about Lula,” says Paula Barreto, the film’s executive producer. “And we did not know exactly who he was. The film was a response to this global demand. For this reason, we do not talk of Lula’s politics, which already are well known."
In Argentina, the film’s premiere is scheduled for March. In the coming year, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Chile also will show the movie. The movie could also be shown in Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia, Peru, the United States, and in several European countries.
By emphasizing Lula’s perseverance through suffering, the film contributes to the building of his mythical image.
But his weaknesses, including his addiction to alcohol when his first wife, Lourdes, died while delivering a child, who also passed away, were excluded from the film. However, Denise Paraná’s book – on which the movie is based – describes these episodes in great detail.
According to Paula Barreto, the scenes were removed because the production staff thought they slowed the film’s pace.
“There were more than three hours of filming. We had to make choices,” Paula Barreto says. “Cinema is also drama, and drama is rhythm. We concluded that it was better to leave these scenes out.”
The movie’s release during an election year is being criticized by opposing parties. Lula’s term expires on Dec. 31.
However, Fábio Barreto said the timing “was just a coincidence.”
The film’s rights were purchased in 2003 – early in Lula’s first term as president – but fundraising took longer than expected.
"No one will leave the theater and vote for Dilma [Dilma Rousseff, Lula’s chief of staff and virtual presidential candidate of the Workers Party],” Fábio Barreto says in an interview published by the newspaper Correio Braziliense on Dec. 21.
Fábio Barreto has been in a coma since suffering a car accident on Dec. 20.
Fábio Barreto’s goal was never to make a politically driven movie. As a result, several major corporations, including Camargo Corrêa, Odebrecht, GDF Suez, AmBev, Volkswagen, Souza Cruz, Hyundai and JBS-Friboi, have sponsored the film.
The donations, which were not tax-exempt, enabled the movie with a cast of 130 to be shot in seven cities in the states of Pernambuco and São Paulo.
Barreto’s movie isn’t the first one about Lula. The 2004 documentaries “Peões” by Eduardo Coutinho and “Entreatos” by Walter Salles also have delved into the president’s life.
Though it’s unclear how many tickets have been sold for Barreto’s film, it’s seeking to break the record of 6.5 million tickets that were sold for the film “Se eu fosse você 2” last year.