Brazil a changed coun­try, says movie star Braga

Kuwait Times - - LIFESTYLE -

It was a screen­ing to pro­mote her lat­est film, but ac­tress So­nia Braga could not help weigh­ing in on the po­lit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion in her na­tive Brazil, just weeks af­ter the ouster of its first woman pres­i­dent. “There is a coup in Brazil, (but) it is not a mil­i­tary coup,” Braga lamented late Fri­day af­ter the screen­ing of “Aquarius,” a movie some see as a sym­bol of po­lit­i­cal re­sis­tance. Latin Amer­ica’s big­gest coun­try has en­dured months of po­lit­i­cal up­heaval, cul­mi­nat­ing with the re­moval from of­fice in Au­gust of Dilma Rouss­eff on charges that she vi­o­lated gov­ern­ment bud­get laws.

The left­ist Rouss­eff was re­placed by her Te­mer, her vice pres­i­dent and a po­lit­i­cal ri­val from the cen­ter-right-a change that makes Braga chafe. “It is very hard for peo­ple out­side of Brazil know­ing ex­actly what’s hap­pened and (the) di­men­sion of the dan­ger that we are go­ing through right now,” the film star con­tin­ued. “Brazil is not the coun­try I used to know,” she con­tin­ued, speak­ing at a cinema in Mi­ami’s Lit­tle Ha­vana dis­trict, home to one of Amer­ica’s largest con­cen­tra­tions of Lati­nos.

When “Aquarius” had its de­but at the Cannes Film Fes­ti­val, the cast and crew cre­ated a sen­sa­tion by stag­ing a red car­pet protest against Rouss­eff be­ing sus­pended from power, hold­ing signs that read “Brazil is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a coup d’etat” and other slo­gans. That protest has led some to see the film as sub­ver­sive, while those on the left have hailed it as an act of po­lit­i­cal courage.

Braga’s child­hood of poverty and want has led her to press for so­cial progress for Brazil’s least for­tu­nate. “I want for Brazil what I al­ways wanted for Brazil since I was nine,” she said.

“From that age I learned so­cial prob­lems, I learned about so­ci­ety. All my life I had this in­tu­itive feel­ing about what is good, what’s fair, what’s jus­tice, for my coun­try, for my peo­ple and for our­selves. And what I can do best is talk­ing out loud what I feel.” Braga is known for her star­ring turn in a num­ber of pop­u­lar movies, in­clud­ing “Kiss of the Spi­der Woman” in 1985 and “Dona Flor and Her Two Hus­bands,” in 1976, as well as nu­mer­ous tele­vi­sion out­ings. She be­came a soap opera sen­sa­tion in her na­tive Brazil be­fore achiev­ing even greater fame and for­tune in Hol­ly­wood.

Still a vi­brant, raven-haired beauty at 66, Braga now lives in New York, but feels a close emo­tional tie to the coun­try of her birth. With its re­cent sharp swerve to the right, how­ever, “it doesn’t seem like to be the coun­try that I knew and I lived in and I loved so much,” Braga said. The ac­tress said she was also dumb­founded over the elec­tion in Rio de Janeiro last week of a rightwing gov­ern­ment, and is left to won­der where the po­lit­i­cal change will end.

“Right now we are in a po­si­tion-all Brazil­ians, I think-where they know that some­thing must be done to not lose some­thing that was very hard to get: A democ­racy,” Braga said. “Democ­racy in Brazil is very young,” she con­tin­ued, ad­ding that af­ter its re­cent po­lit­i­cal tra­vails, Brazil is a coun­try “di­vided in two.” Free-flow­ing po­lit­i­cal dis­course has been sti­fled, said Braga, de­cry­ing “po­si­tions so rad­i­cal that there’s no de­bate.” She sees “Aquarius,” about a woman who de­fies a real es­tate de­vel­oper’s bid to push her from her home, as part of a broader bid to change that. “This movie opens the de­bate about what’s our coun­try now. and what we want for the fu­ture,” Braga said.

This file photo shows Brazil­ian ac­tress So­nia Braga (left) with French pro­ducer Em­i­lie Lesclaux (right) hold­ing a protest sign for the screen­ing of the film ‘Aquarius’ at the 69th Cannes Film Fes­ti­val in Cannes, south­ern France. — AFP

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