Lula movie fails to impress Brazilians as election nears

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Despite a large-scale marketing campaign prior to its launch, ticket discounts, and a sophisticated strategy to show the movie from trucks in areas where there are no cinemas, the much awaited film "Lula, the son of Brazil", a biography of the country's popular President, turned out to be a flop.

Only five weeks after its debut, the movie was no longer among the ten most popular movies in Brazil. Now, seven weeks after its launch, it has disappeared entirely from the screen. Interestingly enough, it seems that the movie's failure can largely be explained not by its lack of quality --quite to the contrary, it is excellent-- but by what Brazilians seemed to regard as an inappropriate attempt to influence the upcoming presidential election. While Lula is barred from running for a third term, he vigorously campaigns for his anointed successor and chief of staff, Dilma Rousseff.

Launching a movie on his life during a campaign Lula is heavily involved in smacks of political manipulation, especially given the fact that several companies who financed the movie have won or hope to win government contracts. It is particularly unfortunate that the movie leaves out all of Lula's flaws, making him look like a modern Gandhi. Critics thus squarely rejected the movie as propaganda the moment it hit the box offices, something that strongly reverberated with the country's upper and middle classes. The film, which starts with Lula's birth in the poor Northeast and ends with Lula's mother's death as he was about to enter politics, would probably have received a warmer reception had it been released after the election.

The movie's lackluster performance at the box offices reaffirms, if anything, the growing political education of Brazil's masses. If it was the director's aim to influence the election, his failure shows that Brazilians know to differentiate between a romantic movie and political realities. Many will vote for Dilma because Lula tells them so, but she will have to convince the people that she is strong enough to carry on his politics. Contrary to what she had hoped, the movie will not give her the boost in the opinion polls she needs to get ahead of her rival, José Serra.

This cannot change the fact that Lula's life story is, by any standard, nothing short of remarkable, and despite the movie's omissions -for example, Lula's favorite booze, liquor, was changed to beer, and the movie wrongly shows him disapproving of the  violence his workers' movement employed- it successfully tells the tale of one of the most impressive political leaders of our time.

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