There's a definite danger when Hollywood portrays Brazil in popular foreign TV shows or film, a sobering reality that many Brazilians are already well aware of. It's amazing how seemingly innocent mistakes or a lack of attention to detail can perpetuate stereotypes not only in countries around the world, but even from generation to generation.
There hasn't really been a big Brazil-centered gringo movie in awhile; the last one that comes to mind is the ridiculously stupid and very controversial Turistas (and I guess that stupid Stallone movie). But the next two years promise more than a few Hollywood movies that take place in Brazil, including the much anticipated animated film Rio 3D, amongst others.
This past week, two different films were shot in Rio de Janeiro. The Fast and the Furious Five production flew the stars to Brazil to film a few scenes in the Cidade Maravilhosa, allowing the actors to also hang out on the beach and mingle with locals. Though it was a big deal in the local media (especially since Vin Diesel in particular was incredibly friendly and a gracious guest, despite some blips), it turned out that despite the fact that most of the movie is supposed to take place in Rio, the majority of the movie was shot in Puerto Rico, due to high production costs in Brazil. So if you actually see the movie, don't be surprised if a lot of the scenes look unfamiliar, since only a small portion of the film was shot in Rio. Let's just hope some of the Brazilian characters don't speak Spanish.
But there was an even bigger deal with Hollywood in Brazil this week. The Breaking Dawn duo landed in Rio on Friday and made headlines across the country. Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson flew down with a production crew, and even the original writer Stephanie Meyer, to shoot a few scenes in the city and then a few scenes in Paraty. Despite earlier misgivings about making the trip to Brazil, the director and producers finally agreed to send the two stars to film in the actual honeymoon location from the book. The director also made sure (and was very wise to do so) to say nice things about Rio and how the cast and crew felt safe in the city and were happy about their warm reception. But the decision wasn't all that simple. The Brazilian film distribution company RioFilme, which is run by the city government, paid US$500,000 (R$850,000) for the US production to shoot in Rio, and had been heavily lobbying the film studio to come to Brazil for months. Luckily, the short Brazil-based shooting supposedly should bring in around US$3 million in revenue for the city and create around 500 jobs.
Hopefully, the two movies won't create controversy when they come out because of the stereotypes they portray, but there's a chance they might. I recently watched the full episode of the Rio Simpsons episodes for the first time, since it's one of the most controversial portrayals of Brazil to come out of Hollywood in recent years (right up there with Turistas). At the time, Brazilians were up in arms for the crazy stereotypes and inaccuracies in the episode, and Riotur, the tourism bureau for Rio de Janeiro, threatened to sue Fox (though in the end, nothing happened). Here's an interesting piece on the incident from NPR:
One of my favorite lines from the Rio episode is when Marge, in a an outdoor market, marvels, "Everything here is something!" Isn't it, though?
While it was a ridiculous portrayal of Brazil, it was also really funny, with a clear eye for detail, which indicated to me that one or more of the writers had been to Rio. And it was clearly a parody, which is what the Simpsons is all about, unlike the aforementioned dramatic movies due to come out soon. While some argue that with comedy, Brazilians should learn to laugh at themselves more, it's a lot harder to be forgiving with a "serious" movie, especially a blockbuster like the Twilight Saga.
Hopefully the Breaking Dawn people will take a note from the Simpsons affair and try to stick as much to reality as possible and avoid some of the silly stereotypes that are even in the book (though it would be fun to see Robert Pattinson speaking Portuguese though; in the book, his character speaks it fluently, because he's awesome like that). It's a thrill for some Brazilians to see their country showcased in such a big movie, but they won't be forgiving if the writers get a little too creative with the realistic parts of the plot.