Today Eli tried to organize a trip with hostel people to a gorgeous beach after Barra, but beyond my friends staying there everyone was lazy and cheap so it didn't happen.
So instead, to celebrate Eli's one full day off this week, we went to a restaurant at the mall we hadn't gone to before called B-52s, to see if their Mexican food was worth eating, and their so-called American food. The place is modeled after an American diner with a WWII theme, with all American food, with menus written in English, with all American prices (not befitting Brazilian salaries). But we decided to go all out for the heck of it and spent a ridiculous amount for a Brazilian meal, but a fairly normal amount for an American one, but since we both earn in reais, it was a splurge (thanks to Dad for reporting to me the amount it translated in dollars). In short--it was good, but there is no real Mexican food here (at least in Rio). Then we went to see the new Brazilian movie, Meu Nome Nao e Johnny (My Name is not Johnny).
The movie stars the wonderfully talented Selton Mello, and the beautiful Cleo Pires, who looks disturbingly like Eli's older cousin. It's a true story about an upper-class drug dealer and cocaine addict who goes from being a friendly neighborhood distributor to an international dealer, who then subsequently gets arrested, put on trial, and put in a jail for mental patients for 2 years--and then, by the grace of the Brazilian justice system and karmic redemption--he is released. The movie ends with text explaining he went on to be a successful composer and musician.
The thing I liked best was the soundtrack. You can listen to it here, and you can hear the main theme, which sounds like a mix of 70s pyschadelic and Middle Eastern music, during the preview, here. You can also read Joao's blog--the guy the movie is based on--here.
It was made in a very Brazilian style, where for the first half of the movie you feel like you're high, from all the jumping around and weird camera angles, and the main character is in fact high for this portion of the movie. Then he goes to jail, and things start to even out. It was a serious movie, but with lots of comedy. My favorite scene is where in the first jail he goes to, a real one, the jail gang wants to start a fight with a group of African prisoners. So one guy sends Joao, the main character, over to talk to them, since they both share English as a common language. Joao and the Africans proceed to have a broken conversation in English in which Joao tries to mistranslate what the Africans are saying to keep the peace, but the Africans just curse at him (fuck you, he says), and the main angry Brazilian prisoner says "Fuck you! Escutei isso em filme americano. Ele falou para me ferrar! Vamos brigar!!" (I heard fuck you in American movies. He told me to go fuck myself! Let's fight!!)
Selton Mello gives a good performance, playing the part of a good rich boy gone drug dealer--but well meaning. The main problem, I think, is that the main theme is redemption: that everyone has a chance to redeem themselves, no matter what they've done.
However, redemption shouldn't apply to drug dealers in Rio, especially not upper class ones, especially since upper class dealing is on the rise. The movie just goes to show that there is a dual system in Brazil's justice system: one for the rich, one for the poor. Joao shares his first jail cell with primarily black inmates, though we don't know what their crimes are, and then he goes to a jail with seriously mental ill inmates who have murdered and raped, etc. And then, the supposedly "hard-ass" judge decides to give him (the white rich guy) clemency: only 2 years in jail. In this time, he theoretically recovers from his addiction, starts to read, is nice to the other prisoners, and gets his life back together.
Also, given the level of violence and corruption spawned from the drug industry here, setting a precedent for such a puny sentence for an international-level dealer is absolutely unjust. This movie, of course, didn't feature what really happens in the drug war, like Tropa de Elite shows--teenage soldiers, torture, shootings, and a lot of deaths. It featured Joao's constant cocaine-fueled parties, his stint smuggling coke into Europe and then partying around with his girlfriend, and then, being caught. It didn't show the real consequences "sweet little Joao"s actions, or the fact that he was setting a new trend for upper-class dealers to become some of Rio's most notorious traficantes.
I believe everyone should have a chance at redemption, but some people don't deserve complete redemption, i.e. freedom after you have seriously broken the law and have caused serious harm in others lives. You should get a shot at personal or spiritual redemption, but this guy, in my opinion, should have been locked up for life, just like George Jung in the amazing American movie Blow, who like Joao was an international-level coke dealer.
The Brazilian justice system does have its share of problems, but so does the American justice system, which favors the rich and famous (OJ Simpson, Nicole Richie, Paris Hilton, to name a few) and disfavors African Americans, especially in the South. Just this week, a black Texan man was released from jail after 26 years of incarceration, when a DNA test cleared him of a rape accusation.
The moral of the story is, in my opinion, that we all need to demand better systems of justice.