Culture Shock

    Culture Shock

    In movies, plays, music, art, and literature, the Brazilian
    culture continues more alive than ever. Brazilians have never bought as
    many books as in recent years and there are a number of movies being made
    and released right now which deal with Brazilian historical facts and cultural
    values. New playwrights have been able to fill up theaters all over the
    country and new poets are finding out their own voice and a public to listen
    to them.
    By Rodolfo Espinoza

    Any English-speaking individual a little more distracted taken unaware
    to a Brazilian big city might never notice he left home. Several radio
    stations seem to ignore any other music but American hits and other less
    than successful tunes. On cable, people are served the diet Americans are
    used to, including CNN, HBO and MTV. In movie theaters more than 60 percent
    of films being shown are from Hollywood. (In the first week of January,
    for example, of 29 movies being shown in Rio, 18 were American — including
    Space Jam, Daylight and 101 Dalmatians — 3 from England,
    3 from France, 2 from Spain, 2 from Italy, 1 from Iran, 0 from Brazil.)
    They have been translated into Portuguese, but among the 10 best-sellers
    list are books by Ken Follet, Sam Shepard, Morris West, Scott Adams, and
    James Redfield. Not to mention the McDonald’s, Jacks in the Box and shops
    naming themselves with cute little English-sounding names and the Walt
    Disney characters spread all over.

    Is the Yankee leviathan going to devour what is left of Brazilian culture?
    Is America cannibalizing the world and Brazil in the process? The majority
    of the Brazilian intelligentsia seems to say yes. They accuse the for-the-masses
    cultural offerings of the US of being shallow, caricatured and unfair in
    its juggernaut power of marketing their gringo culture. In the 1920s, Brazilian
    writer Oswald de Andrade (1890-1954) created a movement called Antropofagia
    (Anthropophagy). His proposal was the deglutition of all foreign influences
    in order to create a true national art. Back then it was the European cultural
    dominance that Brazilian intellectuals feared most. This anthropophagic
    action has never stopped in the musical area for example. But today many
    intellectuals would prefer seeing Brazil loving itself more and borrowing
    less from the outside.

    "Culture in Brazil is a luxury item, " said playwright Alcione
    Araújo in an interview with the Jornal do Brasil in December.
    "The middle class with its pared-down salary has to pay for school,
    health plan and taxes. Who is going to consume the cultural product? The
    revolutionary vision for the 21st century is to understand that
    the only way out during these globalization times is through education
    and culture." Araújo is one of those who are betting that 1997
    will be a watermark year, bringing Brazil back to its own cultural roots.

    The recent samba boom is just one sign that interest in Brazilian culture
    among Brazilians is picking up anew. Paulinho da Viola with Bebadosamba
    (Drunksamba) and Aldir Blanc with 50 Anos (50 Years), two big
    names of MPB (Música Popular Brasileira — Brazilian Pop Music) who
    had been silent for years, have just released their contribution to the
    samba comeback. Pagode, samba’s very close relative, is also a big
    hit again and Zeca Pagodinho is back on the charts. Sambista Martinho
    da Vila is selling more than ever and rocker emeritus Lula Santos is coming
    out soon with his own samba album. New bands like Aquarela Carioca and
    Nó em Pingo D’água are giving chorinho a new lease
    on life.

    Brazilian music does not need any presentation, but it has recently
    received anyway some accolades from music bible Billboard. The US
    magazine has included three Brazilian albums in its list of best of 1996.
    They are Daniela Mercury’s Feijão com Arroz, Sérgio
    Mendes’s Oceano and the sound track for the movie Tieta do Agreste.

    In an interview with Jornal do Brasil, playwright and director
    Aderbal Freire Filho talked about his hope that Brazil will soon yearn
    for art. "Up to the 70s and 80s there was this notion of art as necessary,
    committed, which mirrored the social utopias. Then, came the idea that
    no art is necessary. Now, I believe that we will have a phase in which
    every art is necessary, even art for art’s sake, something that’s negated
    by the engagé artists. Art will be engagé just for the fact
    of being art, in a utilitarian, inhuman, cruel and anti-artistic society."

    Writer Silviano Santiago analyzed the literary moment in a conversation
    with Rio’s daily O Globo: "In the 70s, everybody wanted to
    participate in a movement, to launch a campaign, to gather a group around
    an aesthetic concept. It was that which drew people like (singer-composer)
    Caetano Velloso, (theater director) Zé Celso, (movie director) Gláuber
    Rocha and (painter) Hélio Oiticica. Today, there is no common idea,
    there is no aesthetic movement, but there is a big interest from the market."


    Brazilians have never read so much. The stabilization of the economy
    with the introduction of the new currency, the Real, in mid 1994, and lower
    inflation have created a new legion of readers. In 1994, for the first
    time the book industry was able to break the barrier of $1 billion in books
    sold. Commenting about the improvement, Culture minister Francisco Weffort
    said, "We already have the size of the Spanish market. All we need
    now is to improve the quality of the books."

    While 290 million books were sold in 1994, this number had risen to
    374 million in 1995, and 420 million in 1996. In terms of earnings this
    represented $1,261 million in 1994, 1,857 million in 1995, and more than
    2 million in 1996. The number of titles published increased from 17,500
    in 1991 to more than 50,000 last year. But there is still a lot to grow.
    With a population of 160 million people, Brazil has only 1,200 bookstores.
    Five-times-smaller Argentina has 850.

    The Câmara Brasileira do Livro (Brazilian Chamber of Book) is
    hopeful that the recent interest in books will become a trend and will
    place more books in peoples’ homes. The number of readers in Brazil has
    been so insignificant that a first printing of 3,000 copies is considered
    a good number. Smaller editions mean also that book prices are considerably
    higher in Brazil than in the US.

    Maybe a little late, compared to what has happened in Europe and the
    US, Brazilian booksellers are also going for the-bigger-the-better philosophy.
    Big São Paulo chain bookstores like Ática, Nobel and Saraiva
    are all building and opening megastores in which people have close to 100,000
    book titles to choose from and can also buy stationery, CDs and videos.
    Ática, for example, is spending $20 million in its Ática
    Shopping Cultural to be open in May. Saraiva has already opened two of
    these huge bookstores. In one of them, with 70,000 books, in the Ibirapuera
    shopping mall, people are able to cruise the Internet in the bookstore’s

    Despite recognizing that there has been a recent retraction in the market
    for books, Culture Ministry’s secretary of Exchange Eric Nepomuceno talked
    about his "cautious optimism" about the prospects for Brazilian
    culture this year. He seems encouraged by what he sees as a new attitude
    by business people who are starting to be aware that financing a cultural
    work like a play can bring dividends to a company. "People do not
    wait anymore for the State’s sacrosanct role," says Nepomuceno, "neither
    do they delude themselves with this neoliberal foolishness that the market
    solves everything by itself."

    President Fernando Henrique Cardoso has started an apparently more adequate
    way for the federal government to help the arts and culture in the country.
    Law 8,313, better known as the Rouanet law, has been improved in a way
    that businesses now can discount up to 5 percent (the limit was 3 percent)
    of their federal taxes due to culture. Movies are the ones that are benefiting
    the most from the new law. In 1996, the Culture Ministry budget was increased
    to more than $200 million, doubling the $103 million applied in 1995. The
    Fundo Nacional de Cultura (National Fund for Culture) which finances public
    or private non-profit projects had its budget tripled to $32 million in
    ’96, too little, however, since the demand for funds last year was close
    to $350 million.

    The Big Screen

    In recently released movies, Brazilian themes have been treated with
    critical acclaim albeit with little popular enthusiasm. Quem Matou Pixote?
    (Who Killed Pixote?), from director José Joffily, for example,
    discusses the theme of poverty and police corruption and brutality. Another
    kind of violence from the Brazilian past, the cangaço (backlands
    banditry), has also made it to the big screen through Corisco e Dadá
    by Rosemberg Cariry and Baile Perfumado (Fragrant Ball) by Lírio
    Ferreira and Paulo Caldas. Several movies to be released in 1997 also deal
    with nationalistic themes. Among them, Bruno Barreto’s O Que É
    Isso, Companheiro? (What’s the Matter, Partner?) based on Fernando
    Gabeira’s book of same name that deals with guerrillas and the student
    movement during the military dictatorship in the 60s and 70s.

    Director Walter Salles Jr., will be bringing Central do Brasil (a
    reference to Federal railroad company Estrada de Ferro Central do Brasil),
    a Brazilian-flavored road movie. Sérgio Rezende’s Canudos
    will retell the 20-year saga of Antônio Vicente Maciel, the Antônio
    Conselheiro (Antônio, the Adviser), a holy man who at the end of
    the last century lead a revolution of thousands against the federal government
    in the Bahia backlands. Canudos, which had as many as 20,000 residents,
    was the autonomous town founded by Conselheiro in 1893, four years after
    Brazil deposed emperor Dom Pedro II and became a republic. Another film
    of the current crop is Paulo Thiago’s Policarpo Quaresma based on
    Afonso Henriques de Lima Barreto’s (1881-1922) book Triste Fim de Policarpo
    Quaresma (Policarpo Quaresma’s Sad End) which is a portrait of Rio
    at the end of last century.

    Despite all the enthusiasm of the movie industry and the new releases,
    for the films it will be an upstream struggle since 1996 was a very bad
    year for movies in Brazil. The country counts only 800 screens (compare
    this to the 29,000 movie screens in the US). In 1996 there was a 30 percent
    fall in attendance compared to the previous year. In the 70s, when ticket
    prices were much lower, theaters made an average of $250 million a year
    in tickets. This amount has fallen to a meager $90 million with ticket
    prices between $5 and $8 dollars, comparable to those in the United States.

    However, some people in the movie industry are not deterred by this
    decrease. "The notion that the national film has lost public seems
    incorrect to me," says José Carlos Avellar, veteran film critic
    and RioFilmes president. "We had 20 Brazilian films distributed commercially
    in 1996 and I have the impression that there is still a repressed demand
    from people unsatisfied with the American production’s total hegemony."

    Bruno Wainer, a young distributor, defends the idea that "the public
    doesn’t care if the movie is French, Brazilian or American. All they want
    is a good movie, he says. Producer Luís Carlos Barreto, the chief
    of a clan that is an integral part of the motion picture industry in Brazil,
    also disagrees that there is no public for Brazilian films: "We were
    able in the past to corner 55 percent of the film market. What happened?
    We stayed six years off the market, and the foreign movies, mainly American,
    took over the screens. Now we are recouping the time. I am sure that at
    the end of 1997 Brazilian movies will have conquered from 35 percent to
    40 percent of the market." Barreto criticizes those who make movies
    only to please the critics. "We need to start making popular, narrative
    movies. The critics are making a big mistake. They label as a soap opera
    every film that doesn’t present an exhibitionism in language."

    Since February 1995 when Fábio Barreto’s O Quatrilho —
    the film won a nomination for an Oscar as the best foreign movie, the first
    time this happened to a Brazilian film — started a new era in Brazilian
    movies through the use of the new federal audiovisual law, more than 30
    films have been shot and released. Between 1975 and 1979, the most productive
    time for Embrafilme, the federal organ that was closed by President Fernando
    Collor de Mello, only $7.5 million a year was being invested by the government
    in movies. In the last two years, the industry has raised around $50 million
    through private financing.

    Behind much of this revival there is Italian Bruno Stroppiana, 49, a
    superproducer. He was the man who made possible the shooting of Cacá
    Diegues’s Tieta do Agreste last year and he is involved in
    at least four other megaprojects: Estorvo (Impediment) based in
    Chico Buarque de Hollanda’s book to be directed by Ruy Guerra, For All
    with direction of Luiz Carlos Lacerda and Buza Ferraz and $8.5-million
    superproduction O Xangô de Baker Street based on Jô
    Soares book of same name, to be directed by Miguel Faria Jr. Stroppiana
    has put all of his money into making movies. "When the Brazilian motion
    picture industry fell part in 1990," he revealed, "I bluffed.
    I continued to work under the name of Sky Light, distributing only foreign
    movies, since there were no national films."

    The most populous and powerful state of the Union, São Paulo,
    which is the industrial center of the country, is also trying to assert
    its cultural leadership, a position it always disputes with former federal
    capital Rio de Janeiro. Filmmakers were enthusiastic when Bovespa (Bolsa
    de Valores de São Paulo — São Paulo’s Stock Market) started
    to trade certificates of audiovisual investment last December. Governor
    Mário Covas announced a $4 million program to be distributed to
    11 films selected by PIC (Programa de Integração Cinema e
    TV — Program of Cinema and TV Integration). While this kind of money might
    seem negligible by Hollywood standards, it can mean a lot in Brazil where
    a feature-length film can be made for less than a million dollars. In 1949,
    on average, a movie already cost more than one million to be produced in
    Hollywood, nowadays the price has risen to an average of $30 million.

    One month after the announcement of the program, five movies had already
    benefited from it: Walter Hugo Khouri’s Paixão Perdida (Lost
    Passion), Ricardo Dias’s Fé (Faith), Aurélio Michiles’s
    O Cineasta da Selva (The Jungle’s Filmmaker), Ugo Giorgetti’s Boleiros
    (Scoundrels), and Hector Babenco’s Vinte Anos Depois (Twenty
    Years Later). Khouri’s movie is budgeted at a mere $1 million and shooting
    should start in March.

    According to Ivan Negro, PIC’s coordinator, the program is to create
    a movie pole in São Paulo and establish co-production with TV stations
    the same way this is done in France, Italy and the US. Filmmaker Carlos
    Reichenbach has hailed the initiative. In an interview with the daily Folha
    de São Paulo he declared, "This program is exemplary to
    prove that TV can a be a partner since it is already a consumer of films.
    This is very important because I believe that quality is the result of
    quantity." He has applied for the program’s money with his script
    Dois Córregos (Two Brooks).

    World-renowned Berlin’s International Festival of Cinema which takes
    place this February between the 13 and 24 is presenting a special section
    with the recent crop of Brazilian movies. They include close to a dozen
    movies like José Araújo’s Sertão de Memórias
    (Backlands of Memories), Bia Lessa’s Crede-Mi (Believe Me),
    Murillo Salles’s Como Nascem os Anaw6kx (How Angels Are Born). Compare
    this to the Brazilian participation in the Festival in 1995. Then, from
    the three so-called Brazilian movies none had been shot in the country
    or was spoken in Portuguese.

    The Arts

    Documenta, the German art show held every five years in the town of
    Kassel, is the world’s largest and most important contemporary art exhibit.
    When it opens its doors next June 21, at least three Brazilians will be
    sharing space with the best the art world has to offer. They are world-renowned
    Hélio Oiticica, Lygia Clark, both dead in the 80s and Carioca
    (from Rio) Antônio José de Barros Carvalho e Mello Mourão,
    better known as Tunga, 45, a performancing artist who will be presenting
    among other works his Crime da Mala (Suitcase Crime).

    Already shown in New York, the live art consists of seven young and
    blond men dressed in black and carrying a black suitcase. Every time they
    open the suitcases broken pieces of sculpture representing people fall
    on the floor. In another performance, a group of seven naked young girls
    will get inside a room and then walk up to little mounds of argyle against
    which they will press their vagina to leave there their sex imprint. Tunga
    is also a sculptor who uses copper, plumb or iron to make jars, calices,
    and his obsessive theme: tresses. He studied architecture, but he never
    finished the course.

    Brazil has never produced a great name in the arts as it has in music,
    literature or architecture. But, recent art auctions in London and New
    York have shown that Brazilian artists are starting to get some respect
    in the world. Last November, Christie’s of New York auctioned 26 paintings
    and drawings by Di Cavalcanti (1897-1976), Cândido Portinari (1903-1962)
    and Italian-Brazilian Alfredo Volpi (1896-1988) , three of Brazil’s best
    modern painters, getting $2.1 million for them, double of what was anticipated
    by the event organizers. Di Cavalcanti’s Mulheres com Frutas (Women
    With Fruit) brought $650,000. The painter had never sold any work before
    for more than $500,000. The painting was bought by Argentinean art collector
    Eduardo Constantini who in 1995 had acquired Tarsila do Amaral’s (1886-1973)
    Abaporu for $1.43 million, a record price for a Brazilian painting.
    There is still a long way before the Brazilian art becomes accepted. The
    best Colombian and Mexican painters are sold for $3 million and more. In
    a recent article about São Paulo’s Bienal, the British magazine
    The Economist classified Brazilian painting as "mediocre".

    The Stage

    For the good theater professional there does not seem to be any lack
    of work. Despite all the criticism against TV Globo network, which feeds
    Brazil with a daily diet of several prime-time soap operas, nobody denies
    its merit in making Rio a flourishing place for theater. There are all
    of those actors and actresses in between novelas raring to work
    on the stage.

    Veteran actress Fernanda Montenegro, 67, 47 of them on stage, for example,
    has her agenda taken up until 1998. She is shooting right now Walter Salles
    Jr.’s movie Central do Brasil. In March she starts taping her participation
    in a Globo network novela (soap opera). She stars in the Anton Pavlovich
    Chekov’s play The Seagull, June in Salvador (state of Bahia). In
    the ensuing months she will also be Molly in the Irish Brian Friel play
    of same name and Coco Chanel in a play written by Paulista (from
    São Paulo) playwright Maria Adelaide Amaral.

    "There was a time in which the actor belonged only to the theater,"
    says Montenegro. "Afterwards came movies and the theater, and radio,
    but the theater continued to be the base. Then came TV, ravenous. And today
    the beast called an actor is available as long as he wants it. There is
    a myriad of possibilities, even from the point of view of economic survival."

    Going to the international front, off-Broadway could be soon showing
    a work by one of Brazil’s most prominent playwrights. Alfredo Dias Gomes
    has recently traveled to New York to negotiate the rights for Roque
    Santeiro (Roque, the Saint Maker), a play that has been having full
    houses in Rio. It was Leon Lydey, the translator of the play into English
    in the 1970s, who suggested that the work be brought to New York. It would
    not be anything extraordinary, however. Roque Santeiro had its world
    première in 1976 in the US, when the text was still known as O
    Berço do Herói (The Hero’s Cradle).

    Ironically, the play was sponsored by the Brazilian embassy in Washington
    at the same time that the Brazilian military regime had forbidden the play
    to be shown in Brazil. Gomes had two other plays shown on New York’s off-off-Broadway:
    O Pagador de Promessas (Keeper of Promises) and O Santo Inquérito
    (The Holy Inquisition). Dias Gomes has become better known these days
    by his socially-aware TV novelas (soap operas).

    The Underground

    The alternative press, which was an important way of spreading ideas
    and publishing poems during the 70s, is having a revival with a twist.
    While these publications were many times artisan copies made by mimeograph,
    much of so-called underground press nowadays has nothing of underground.
    Some like Inimigo Rumor (Enemy Rumor) and Item have slick
    covers and daring graphic projects. They deal with arts (Item),
    theater (O Percevejo), literature (Inimigo Rumor, Caderno de
    Literatura Brasileira) and culture in general (O Carioca, Remate
    de Males, Revista da USP).

    With 150 pages and sold for $15 in libraries, Inimigo Rumor started
    publication in January. The magazine published by Sette Letras bookstore
    intends to divulge poetry from unknown and renowned poets. A similar formula
    has been used with success by O Carioca, a literary magazine created
    in Rio in January that has already become a cultural institution of the
    city. Editor Chacal explains: "O Carioca intends to record
    the culture that is made in Rio. It’s an affirmation of the young culture,
    but we are not afraid to pay homage. Our first issue celebrated the Carnaval
    blocos like Suvaco do Cristo (Christ’s Armpit)."

    Another way Brazilians are preserving their culture is by taking care
    of their historic monuments. At the end of 1996 there were more than 250
    historic buildings being restored across the country. Thanks to private
    effort and government grants neoclassical structures, baroque churches
    and a number of other landmarks are being brought back to their past glory.
    While five years ago, projects dealing with historic monuments represented
    1 percent of all the money applied by private companies in the cultural
    field, today this amount has jumped to more than 40 percent. From $87 million
    allotted to the Culture Ministry as a supplement for the 96-97 period,
    $60 million were allotted to the restoration of historic buildings.

    Ouro Preto in Minas Gerais, a historic city, with 32 churches from the
    XVII century, has become a shining example of what preservation can do
    to a place and to the pride of its inhabitants. Its San Francisco de Assis
    church, for example, the masterpiece of Antônio Francisco Lisboa,
    the Aleijadinho (Crippled One) the most important sculptor Brazil has ever
    produced, has regained all of its original splendor. Many other churches
    and buildings with the help of government and private companies have also
    been restored. Tourism has picked up in the city. Rio has renovated its
    Biblioteca Nacional and Salvador (Bahia) recuperated a whole neighborhood
    known as Pelourinho, in 1993 at a cost of $30 million. Thanks in part to
    this work Salvador has seen an increase of 100,000 tourists a year. Even
    the New York Times praised the effort.


    While in fiction, the big names have not changed in decade or so, there
    is new blood in poetry. Young poet Pedro Amaral, 22, is being presented
    by some critics as the best poet Brazil has produced in many years. Amaral
    released his first book, Vívido (Vivid), at the end of 1995.
    He confesses to have been influenced by Portuguese Fernando Pessoa (1888-1935)
    and Brazilian poets João Cabral de Melo Neto (b. 1920) and Carlos
    Drummond de Andrade (1902-1987).

    Jorge Viveiro de Castro, Sette Letras publishing house’s editor, and
    the person who discovered Amaral, says, "He was the rare case of a
    writer who didn’t look for me. On the contrary, it was I who ran after
    him. He is very meticulous, changing the rhythm of a poem with a semicolon,
    improving even more what already was very good. The poet loves synthesis
    and rarely goes over one page when he writes. "I am always cutting
    until I get to that minimum necessary to say what I want. As for women,
    my relationship with them is one of enchantment and that’s why they are
    always in my poems. I fall in love very easily.

    A sample


    O biquíni convida

    A brincar de esconder

    Ele chama, ele instiga

    A gente a percorrer,

    No rasto da malícia,

    A ligeira divisa,

    Entre o casto e a delícia,

    Entre ver e não ver.

    Lúdico, elucida

    Ao menino que o vê

    Desde onde a vida

    Desde onde e porquê.


    The bikini invites

    To play hide and seek

    It calls, it incites

    Us to tread,

    In the malice’s path,

    The tenuous divide,

    Between chaste and delight,

    Between to see or not to see.

    Ludic, it elucidates

    To the boy who sees it

    From where life

    From where and why.

    Another young and respected poet is Antônio Cícero, who
    is first a philosopher with a published essay (O Mundo Desde o Fim —
    The World Since the End), and who is better known as the author of
    many hit songs’ lyrics in partnership with Marina Lima, his singer and
    composer sister. His first poetry book, Guardar (To Keep) was published
    at the end of 1996 by Record. The poet, who likes to read classic Latin
    and Greek poets in the original, is a rigorous philosopher and a very sophisticated

    Talking about the poetic avant-garde in Brazil in an interview with
    the daily O Estado de São Paulo he declared: "I have
    a deep personal admiration for Augusto and Haroldo de Campos. I am even
    afraid of saying some things so I won’t hurt them, but I have to say. I
    think that this Poundian hierarchy that places inventors on one side and
    diluters on the other is entirely wrong. Poetry cannot be thought of like
    that. It’s not the novelty, but the imponderable that counts in poetry.
    Goethe, for example, hasn’t written the first Faust, but he has
    written the best."

    He sees music as a place for some poets to write without being ridiculed
    by the literati: "Composer Chico Buarque de Holanda is a great poet
    who likes to write traditional verses with rhymes. If he practiced this
    kind of poetry in a book he would be called reactionary, conservative.
    But in music he does it and no one can say a thing. Without this outlet,
    poetic talents like Chico Buarque and Caetano Veloso wouldn’t have a way
    to express themselves and maybe would even keep quiet."

    A sample


    Guardar uma coisa não é escondê-la ou trancá-la.

    Em cofre não se guarda coisa alguma.

    Em cofre perde-se a coisa à vista

    Guardar uma coisa é olhá-la, fitá-la,

    mirá-la por admirá-la, isto é,

    iluminá-la ou ser por ela iluminado.

    Guardar uma coisa é vigiá-la, isto é,

    fazer vigília por ela, isto é, velar por ela,

    isto é, estar acordado por ela, isto é,

    estar por ela ou ser por ela.

    Por isso melhor se guarda

    o vôo de um pássaro

    do que um pássaro sem vôos.

    Por isso se escreve, por isso se diz,

    por isso se publica,

    por isso se declara

    e declama um poema:

    Para guardá-lo:

    Para que ele por sua vez,

    guarde o que guarda:

    Guarde o que quer

    que guarda um poema:

    Por isso o lance do poema:

    Por guardar-se

    o que se quer guardar

    To keep

    To keep something is not to hide it or lock it up.

    In a coffer we don’t keep anything.

    In a coffer we lose sight of something.

    To keep something is to look at it, to gaze at it,

    To eye it for admiring it, that is,

    to illuminate it or to be by it illuminated.

    To keep something is to watch it, that is,

    to keep vigil for it, that is, lie in wait for it,

    that it, to be awake for it, that is,

    to exist for it or to be for it.

    That’s why we better keep

    a flight of a bird

    than a bird without flights.

    That’s why we write, that’s why we say,

    that’s why we publish,

    that’s why we declare

    and recite a poem:

    To keep it:

    So that it, in turn,

    will keep what it keeps:

    Will keep whatever

    a poem keeps:

    From there a poem’s spirit:

    For keeping

    what we want to keep.


    At times it seems as if the theater in Brazil these days is being double-handedly
    saved by Mauro Rasi, and Miguel Falabella, both comic playwrights. Together
    they have half dozen plays being put on all over the country, all very
    successful. They started together in a loose theatrical movement called
    besteirol (bunch of silliness) and have become very prosperous writers,
    directors and producers.

    Rasi, 46, considered the best comedy writer in Brazil right now, and
    a master in creating unforgettable characters, had three works playing
    simultaneously in Rio and São Paulo at the beginning of the year:
    Pérola (Pearl — the daily routine of a country family in
    the 50s), A Dama do Cerrado (The Savannah’s Lady — what happens
    when a woman after a 20-year affair with a politician decides to tell the
    story to her hairdresser), and As Tias do Mauro Rasi (Mauro Rasi’s
    Aunts — based on the authors’ own four aunts). In all his plays, the author
    talks about his family. In Pérola, his most successful work,
    with 400,000 tickets sold in two years, the main character is based on
    Rasi’s own mother who died in 1993.

    Even though going to the theater — despite all the campaigns to popularize
    it — is still limited to the elite, Rasi is getting rich writing and directing
    plays. According to the weekly newsmagazine Veja, the playwright
    is getting a $120,000 monthly check for the copyrights and ticket sales
    from his plays. These three plays alone have already brought to the theater
    800,000 people. Today he brings more people to the theaters than Marcos
    Caruso whose Trair e Coçar É Só Começar
    (To Betray and to Scratch All You Have to Do Is to Start) is being
    presented for 11 years and has already sold 1.6 million tickets.

    Curiously, Rasi lived from his father’s allowance until he was 37. At
    age 18 he moved to Paris and from there to New York, with the excuse that
    he was learning piano. In Paris he decided he wanted to be the Jean Paul
    Sartre of Brazil and in the Big Apple he found out that his family could
    be a source of inspiration for a career as a playwright. At 20 he was back
    in Brazil. Success did not come immediately though. Ladies da Madrugada
    (Ladies of Dawn), his first play which mixed Carmen Miranda and Evita
    Perón, was a flop. His first hit would come in 1987 with A Cerimônia
    do Adeus (The Farewell Ceremony).


    Miguel Falabella, 38, son of intellectual parents, who got a degree
    in English literature, has as many friends as foes and he is often disparagingly
    called "mean blonde". Falabella has become famous for his memorable
    and effective phrases and well-concocted plots. Three of his plays were
    being shown in Rio in January. Loiro, Alto, Solteiro, Procura (Blond,
    Tall, Single, Searches), Como Encher um Biquíni Selvagem (How
    to Fill Up a Wild Bikini) and Todo Mundo Sabe que Todo Mundo Sabe
    (Everybody Knows That Everybody Knows) three comedies dealing with loneliness
    and the stresses of the big city.

    The author seems to be all over these days, as playwright, newspaper
    columnist, soap opera writer, actor, director and producer, TV star. And
    he is full of new projects for 1997, including taking to the big screen
    his play Querido Mundo (Dear World), writing a new play based on
    his family and love-affair memories already baptized as Motivos Florais
    (Floral Motives) and opening the Teatro Miguel Falabella at the NorteShopping
    in Rio. He is also in negotiations to bring A Partilha (The Partition)
    to Broadway.

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