Biopic about country's president opens Brasilia

The red-carpet premiere of Fabio Barreto’s “Lula, the Son of Brazil” opened the 42nd Brasilia Film Festival on Tuesday.

About 2,000 moviegoers packed Brasilia’s National Theater to watch the drama depicting the life of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

Local indies Downtown and Europa will release the pic Jan. 1 on 500 screens in the biggest opening of a local film since the 1980s, when the exhib circuit was significantly larger than today’s 2,200 screens.

The pic depicts Lula’s life from his impoverish childhood in the northeast to his 30s in Sao Paulo, when he became the main labor leader in the country. The series of Lula-led strikes in the late 1970s, which paralyzed the local automobile industry and challenged authoritarian laws, are seen as the main reason for the military dictatorship’s fall a few years later.

To avoid conflicts of interest, the “Lula” producers did not tap the country’s generous pic incentive systems and raised the 12 million reals ($7 million) budget through private sponsors.

Opposition leaders have called “Lula” a political pic and criticized the timing of its release during an election year.

Barreto denied that, saying, “This is an epic melodrama centered on a mother-son relationship, and having as a subplot a story similar to the millions of Brazilian families who had to migrate to Sao Paulo to escape extreme poverty.

“As for the release date, our project dates back to 2003, and the initial plans were to release the film early this year, but the international financial crisis delayed our fund-raising effort.”

Four documentaries and two features are competing for the fest’s Candango kudo.

The docs are Henrique Dantas’ “Filhos de Joao, admiravel mundo novo baiano,” Jorge Oliveira’s “Perdao mister fiel,” Evaldo Mocarzel’s “Quebradeiras” and Marilia Rocha’s “A falta que me faz.”

The features are Anna Muylaert’s “E proibido fumar,” considered the strongest competitor for the Candango, and Geraldo Moraes’ “O homem mau dorme bem.”

Fest wraps on Nov. 24.

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