Brazil a changed country, says movie star Braga
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