This is Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, president of Brazil.
His countrymen call him Lula, a nickname he added to his legal name at age 37.
Today, after almost eight years in office, his approval continues to exceed 70%.
The man’s life story is nothing short of remarkable.
He was the seventh of eight children, born to poverty.
He had little formal education and learned to read only when he was ten years old.
His working life began at twelve, shining shoes on the streets of São Paulo.
At nineteen, he lost the little finger of his left hand while working as a press operator in an automobile parts factory.
By that time, he was already a member of the metal workers union.
He rose steadily through the ranks and became president of one of the local chapters at age thirty.
At age 45, he was elected to congress.
And, at age 57, the president of his country.
Sounds like a movie doesn’t it?
Well, now it is.
Lula, son of Brazil, was co-financed by the Brazilian government (as almost all films in Brazil are) and a number of companies who have won, or hope to win government contracts.
It was an absolute flop in commercial terms and disappeared from Brazilian cinemas only seven weeks after its launch.
But it’s Brazil’s submission this year for the Oscar for the best foreign film.
How can that be?
Well, uh, the decision was made (unanimously) by a committee composed of officials of the Ministry of Culture, the Audiovisual Secretariat, the National Cinema Agency and the Brazilian Academy of Cinema.
The first three are government agencies and the fourth is heavily dependent upon government support.
Of course, none of us have any doubt that they acted absolutely objectively.
And it is, also without doubt, a sheer coincidence that the film was launched at just about the same time that Lula went on the road to campaign for his hand-picked successor in the national elections.
The guy standing in front of the box office is asking if he can get in for half-price if he shows his voter registration card.
Is Lula, the movie, a true reflection of Lula, the man?
Well, sort of.
But, in the movie, the president’s favorite tipple is beer and he never gets drunk, while in real life he prefers cachaça and…well, you know.
And, in the movie, he never swears in public.
And there is no mention of the egregious corruption scheme that tainted some of his closest advisers, but from which nothing stuck to Lula. (Causing some to start referring to him as the Teflon President.)
The movie is said to have brought tears to the President’s eyes when he saw it for the first time.
Lula, Son of Brazil.
See it, before it disappears from a cinema near you.
Leighton - Monday