Tuesday, November 12, 2013

My Log 395: Case closed for me years ago; but the argument rages on

English: Olkiluoto Nuclear Power Plants 1 & 2 ...
 Olkiluoto Nuclear Power Plants 1 & 2 (BWRs with 860 MWe each) in Eurajoki, Finland. Suomi. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The control room at a U.S. nuclear power plant.
The control room at a U.S. nuclear power plant. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Ikata Nuclear Power Plant
Ikata Nuclear Power Plant (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
English: Nuclear power plant in Cattenom, Fran...
Nuclear power plant in Cattenom, France  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Nuclear Power
Nuclear Power (Photo credit: EnvironmentBlog)
The CANDU Bruce Nuclear Generating Station is ...
The CANDU Bruce Nuclear Generating Station is the second largest nuclear power plant in the world. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It never ceases to amaze me that people who seem to be perfectly normal, well adjusted and in most things well informed, can still make fallacious arguments about subjects which, to me, have been perfectly clear for decades.
One of these subjects is nuclear power; another is abortion. Both are subjects of intense controversy around the world, but still many decades after I considered the arguments were over and my side had won, the arguments rage on.
Let me take them in sequence: last night I went to a screening at the admirable Cinema Politica series at Concordia University here in Montreal of two documentary films dealing with nuclear power. The generic title of the evening was “Women of Fukushima”, and the evidence brought on the subject of Japan having 54 nuclear power stations, in spite of having experienced the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, was devastatingly clear. One woman, who had been for years an ordinary, non-political housewife, put it as simply as it can be put when she said:  “What is important? There are three things: life, health and the care of children. What else is there? Yet they have built these things…. Money is not the only thing that is important…”
As far as she was concerned, nuclear power came down to a question of money, to people giving the primacy to money over all other life values.
It was striking that while to the outside world the tsunami caused the bigger devastation, to these women the meltdown of the nuclear power plant appeared incomparably more important, to the degree that the tsunami was not even mentioned in the film.
I understand how this could be so. It may seem to the engineers who have made all these nuclear plants that theirs is a fool-proof method of generating electric power, but what it really amounts to is that these engineers on our behalf have entered into a Faustian bargain: all that is needed is for one of  these nuclear plants to seriously malfunction, and devastation occurs that covers a huge area of country, affects millions of people and lasts for years and years, because it is impossible to clean up. They have, in other words, sold our souls to the Devil, “our” meaning the populations of the world, and we have to pay in suffering when time comes to cash in their Faustian bet.
There is no other disaster comparable to this: it continues apparently almost for ever; it strikes into our very processes that keep us living, transforming and mutating us by the thousands, and expelling us from areas in which the radiation from the meltdown holds sway, apparently into the indefinite future.
That these are the facts is attested to by a strange circumstance, that nuclear power stations are built in spite of the fact that private insurance companies will not insure them ---  that is left for the government to do, or to make some kind of guarantee about, since the costs of a major nuclear accident are so gigantic that no budget on earth could sustain them.
The meltdown at Fukushima occurred on March 11, 2011 --- more than two and a half years ago --- and the latest word is that the damage will not be cleared up for 40 years, surely just a guess. No one is allowed into an area 20 miles square, and although people who had lived here, been born there even, still hanker to go back, they know it would be at the cost of their own health and longevity. The first of these two films showed a woman working over some vegetables, and saying, “We used to be able to grow clean, edible vegetables. But now, all the vegetables we grow are affected by radiation.”  And, as everyone knows, radiation can be  fatal for humans or other forms of life.
The second film --- both were made by Americans, it seems --- show how Japan, which had once been an active country with lots of public protests, had since the 1960s sunk into a state of apathy before government and corporate manipulation. In the area most closely affected by the nuclear meltdown, for generations they had never been able to get more than 100 people to a street demonstration against anything. With solid intellectual support from various professors, researchers and others, a group of younger people, some of whom had formed their own bands, decided to change that, and planned a demonstration to which they succeeded in attracting 15,000 people. Two months later in a different location, they got 20,000 out. Later still, 25,000 to 30,000. This, the organizers said, meant that a major change in public opinion in Japan is under way. People who had passively accepted the assurances given about the safety and importance of nuclear generated power stations, are now asking how it had happened that the Japanese, the only people to have had direct experience of the devastating effects of nuclear bombs, had simply accepted the building of 54 power stations scattered over the length and breadth of the country, without so much as a whimper.
I have  only two things to add, personal notes: I remember covering a speech at a luncheon club in Montreal in the 1950s given by the head man in the Atomic establishment in Canada. He said  there was no need to worry about disposal of the wastes from nuclear stations: they were working on it, and it was under control. That was more than 60 years ago, and they still haven’t got it under control.
Secondly, when I was in New Zealand in 1975, the government of the time floated the idea of building a nuclear power station at the foot of the Manukau harbour, one of the two great harbours around which the city of Auckland is built.  This was the choice of the nation’s Establishment, but a chemistry professor at the University of Auckland, Bob Mann, began a campaign designed to kill off this idea of building a nuclear-powered station. I went to several meetings, all-day meetings, where representatives of the Maori tribes to whom this part of the country was and always had been home, argued that the plant would wipe out one of their basic foodstuffs, the shellfish collected from the harbour. No one could argue that this would not happen.
It would be going too far to say that Bob Mann turned that idea away by himself, but he certainly was the inspiration of the movement that did cause the government to reconsider its policy. Of course, he had to accept that his battle against the whole establishment, including the intellectual establishment, would rob him of any chance of promotion in the university hierarchy. But he thought it worthwhile. And he was right.
It still astonishes me that people whose heads seem to be on straight can sill advocate nuclear power, in spite of its overpowering  effects when it goes wrong, as, demonstrably, it does from time to time,
The second subject in my thoughts today is abortion. That is because I have been listening to an interview on the BBC’s Hardtalk programme with a woman called  Dr Rebecca Gomperts, founder of the pro-choice group Women on Waves, whose objective has been to bring safe abortions to women who need them,  using a ship as her clinic.
The interview is conducted by the BBC’s  Zeinab Badawi, a woman sho begins every interview with a fixed idea of what she wants to achieve in the interview, and will let nothing get in the way of her achieving it, regardless of whether her questions seem to be advancing the cause of information and enlightenment, or obscuring it, which, unfortunately, is more often the case. (I call her Mezeinab, because she always introduces herself with, “me Zeinab Badawi…” )
Incidentally, I find the premise of Hardtalk, usually under the control of the well-informed and skilful interviewer Stephen Sackur (I call him, sardonically, “Saint Stephen”) to be irritating in the extreme, especially after you have watched a few dozen of them. So intent is he always on asking questions he thinks his subjects will not like to be confronted with, that the impression Saint Stephen gives is that, no matter what the subject nor how flawlessly his subject knows it, he, Saint Stephen, knows more about it and would  be just the man to put all it right if only those idiots out there would give him the chance.
Well, Mezeinab, who is the mother of four, was not altogether in favour of what Dr. Gomperts was doing, and she trotted out various versions of the hardline, irredentist anti-abortion arguments in an effort to throw her interviewee off track. (To absolutely no effect, I might add, the doctor having heard it all before.)
You can say that again. Myself in 1961 I attended as an interested reporter, the global meeting of the International Planned Parenthood Association, where  various experts in the field produced evidence of the gradual advance in many, if not most, countries towards a situation in which no woman would ever again have to resort to the back room filth and danger of a makeshift abortion, a method that was killing tens of thousands every year.
At that time countries like Japan, Hungry and others, mostly in the anti-religious Eastern bloc, were either offering abortions on demand, or something very close to it.  Countries like Italy and Columbia, which one might have supposed would be dead against abortion and birth control because of the power of the Roman Catholic religion, were in actual fact exhibiting statistics that indicated widespread use of birth control, whereas others like France, were, although not willing to make abortion freely available, nonetheless moving crablike towards a position of acceptance. The United States, in spite of its (claimed) higher levels of education, nevertheless was persisting in treating abortion as a criminal procedure. The general impression I got from the evidence presented was that abortion, a decision to be made only between a woman and her doctor, was gaining ground everywhere, and could be expected to be available throughout the world within the foreseeable future. In my eyes the debate had been vigorous, but was basically over.
In a pig’s eye! The years since 1960 have brought about a revival of the fundamentalist Protestant religions in the United States, and in their satrapies in South America, and as Conservative values  have ridden high  politically, especially in the United States, abortion has become a hot-button issue in many states. When Ireland recently made a moderate change in its abortion laws it was revealed that an estimated 5000 to 7000 women a year travelled to Britain to obtain an abortion, and there seem to be no figures for the number of abortions actually carried out illegally in the country.

No one likes the idea of abortion, but as Dr. Gomperts said in her interview, only a woman confronted with having an unwanted baby could reliably offer an opinion on the matter. Otherwise, this is a subject in which, frankly, men are trying, for religious reasons,  to impose their views on women in distress. Case closed, as far as I am concerned.
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Sunday, November 10, 2013

My Log 394: Watching “Casablanca” start to finish, a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon

Screenshot of Paul Henreid, Ingrid Bergman, Cl...
Screenshot of Paul Henreid, Ingrid Bergman, Claude Rains and Humphrey Bogart from the trailer for the film Casablanca. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
This screenshot shows Humphrey Bogart holding ...
This screenshot shows Humphrey Bogart holding a gun in the airport scene. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
This screenshot shows Ingrid Bergman in a flas...
This screenshot shows Ingrid Bergman in a flashback scene with Humphrey Bogart. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
This afternoon I watched Casablanca for the umpteenth time, but it was the first time for many years that I had seen it right through from the beginning.
It was preceded by Ben Mankiewicz on TCM saying people were divided between those who thought it the greatest movie ever made and those who thought it the second greatest. Probably it was Woody Allen who stimulated this exaggerated praise for the film.
Certainly I found from the beginning that from the moment Ingrid Bergmann walked into Rick’s café in Casablanca just after the French had collapsed, and it had become vulnerable to Nazi pressure, from that moment it became powerfully moving. From her first words, her voice seemed laden with nostalgia, regret and sadness. She spotted the piano-player, said to him, after gazing at him intently, “Play it, Sam.”
Oh, shucks, says Sam I am a bit rusty, I have forgotten it
“Play it,” she repeats, and when he still demurs, she says, more firmly, “Play it, Sam, I will hum it.”  So she starts to hum it, and pretty soon Sam has picked up the tune that will forever be identified with this movie, the ruminatory As Time Goes By, and as her eyes fill with tears, we are hooked. But I mean hooked.
Then Bogart, playing his well-known impersonation of a real person, a real man, tells Sam, “Didn’t I tell you never to play that!”  And we know what it’s all about, this movie,  immediately, and that his tough-as-steel act, his never showing his emotions to anyone, is all a show and will never last, we know it from that moment, even after the pianist has warned him to stay away from her, “She’s trouble, boss.”
Then she comes to his room. He knew she would, but he begins to assail her with having stood him up, left him standing in the rain at the railway station where they were supposed to go off together and he is still aching inside because of it, but, of course, never showing it to anyone, pretending it is all done and finished with.
I had forgotten that there is a fairly long flashback sequence of them in Paris, magically in love although they  met only two days before, and it is all compounded because their love affair is being played out against the spectacle of the German tanks rolling towards Paris. And there, in a café called La Belle Aurore, that looks exactly like Rick’s Place, there is Sam singing the same song, their song. He said he knew nothing about about her. What was she doing ten years ago? She says, “I thought there were to be no questions. I guess I was having the brace put on my teeth,”she says, “what were you doing?”
“I was looking for a job.”
Back in Casablanca, she comes to his room again, to apologize, and ask for his help, but he is harsh with her, tells her he can’t be worked like that, just to get what she wants out of him, so she leaves again, and, he being a man who has emotions only in private, he puts his head on the table between his hands, something he hasn’t done in years.
Then comes the big sequence, a thrilling one, where the customers of the cafe rise and sing La Marseillaise to drown out the Nazi song being sung by a group of German officers, an event that causes the café to be closed. The local chief, played by Claude Rains,  is amiable but crooked, ready to do well out of everyone else’s misfortune, and he  does the Germans’ bidding, and explains, when asked why, “I am shocked, shocked, to find gambling going on here.” (I heard that line quoted recently by someone commenting on the Rob Ford imbroglio, which, he said reminded him of the movie line.
Of course the denouement is, strictly, unbelievable. But we know, we have been allowed to pick it up that against everything he has said and is saying, Ilse, his lost love has again touched Rick’s heart. So he arranges for a young couple desperate to get to the United States from Bulgaria to win some money on his (Rick’s) crap table, (Rick being this man with a heart of gold).
Again, Ilse comes to him, he agrees to get her husband out of the country, if she will stay with him, Rick.  She is desperate to lose him, he says they will always have Paris, and she says, “I said I would never leave you.”
“And,” says Bogie, “you never will,” finally letting his emotion out, free to sit on his shoulder.  Later, when she realizes he plans to save her husband and to let her go with him, and so it is arranged, she says (the words sounding as if wrenched out of her), “I don’t have the strength to leave you again….”  What a master actor she was, this woman, able to breathe such life into his fairly banal dialogue.
So the husband gets on to the plane with his wife and they disappear into the mist, Rick having shot and killed the Nazi chief who has tried to stop the plane.
And so to the ending, light-hearted, insouciant, the man back to his manly ways, as he says to Claude Rains, who has just told him they will have to leave Casablanca together,“I think this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship…”

It is, no matter how many times you see it, a great movie. There are not that many of them that can repeatedly tug at your heart like this, but it is a wonderful way to spend a Sunday afternoon, believe me.
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Friday, November 8, 2013

My Log 393: A film that makes us want to shout: “Hurrah for the human race! Hurrah for this beautiful Earth.!”

I came across a lovely film today that has been making the rounds since it was completed in 2011. It is a German, Chilean, Argentinian and Dutch co-production, directed by Viktor Kossakovsky, who had the strange idea of matching points on the globe that are exact antipodes. The film is called Vivan Las Antipodas! (Long Live the Antipodes), and it is at once a geography lesson and wonderfully inspiring testament of faith in people and their societies.
This sounds portentous, but the film is not like that. The solemn-sounding idea is worked out with charming humour and modesty to such a pont that although there is no plot or even much of a storyline, one’s interest was caught in the first frames, and continued for the whole 108 minutes.
The eight locations chosen, matched four against four, are a small settlement called Entre Rios in Patagonia and Lake Baikal in Russia; another small place in Chile matched against the hustle and bustle of Shanghai, one of the world’s biggest cities; the Big Island of Hawaii, notable for its persistent lava flows, against Botswana, notable for its huge herds of elephants, the largest land animal; and a small beach in the North Island of New Zealand on which has washed the largest sea animal,  against the coastal town of Miraflores, Spain.
Because so much of the Earth is covered with water, Kossakovsky figured that only four per cent of the earth’s surface has a direct antipode, a spot anyone would arrive at if they drilled a hole right through the centre of the Earth. When he explained his idea to a Patagonian shepherd, asking him to think of a woman asleep in Russia directly opposite him, the man said immediaely, “so we are kind of sleeping together.” Which, I suppose one could say, joined together as they are by their common attachment to the Earth.
Praised for the skill with which he illustrated his unusual theme, the film-maker said it made him think of the statement that is so often attributed to artists, “it’s not me, it’s my hand.”
He added: “It’s such a privilege to be a film-maker, to see such things, to meet such people” as he met in the making of his unusual film.
Although the camera does catch the great beauty of this remarkable world in many sequences, the people and their rich characers are every bit as much of a focus as the different landscapes. The film opens with a couple of people in South America who have built a small bridge over a tiny stream, and who talk to each vehicle that comes through with the bject of getting them to pay their toll fee. Mostly, however, they find some way of either  postponing the payment or forgiving it. And it is at about this point that the film-maker pulls his major stylistic trick, rotating his shot, placing it first sideways, matching it with the location he is moving to on the exact other side of the world, and then showing us them together one on top, one beneath. Then the location he is moving to has the screen to itself, but at first, everything is upside down. The people, dogs, and animals walk upside down, and only gradually are we allowed to think this isn’t actually how it happens: like us up here, they, too, are right side up.
(I thought that was how I would come out, because I was born down there, and never had the feeling I was upside down.)
The most startling images in the film, apart from the purely scenic, of which there were a few, but certainly not too many, were in the last two episodes. On the Big Island of Hawaii, a man wanders over the landscape most of which is covered in huge lava rocks, and sinewy strings of lava that have simply cooled down when in their natural state as they flow down the hill. A man picks his way across the rocks, looking for his dog. Suddenly, like a slow-moving river, we see a sream of lava, headed by a big pile of it, still glowing with its natural fires as it finds its place among the rocks deposited in previous flows. It was a scary image, but not quite so scary as a few moments later when the man stands close by as a huge lava flow, towering above all the rocks previously deposited, agonizingly makes its way downhill. Eventually, this image too is turned upside down, the film-maker managing to show in one memorable shot how similar the texture of an elephant’s skin looks to the lava bed the man has been walking over. The elephant is in Hawaii’s antipode, Botswana. And the final pairing is a coastal point on the east coast of the North Island of New Zealand, where a huge whale has washed up on the shore and is just breathing its last as local people come with their earth-moving equament, tractors and big mechanical shovels in the hope of movng the carcass to a place where it can be safey buried. No hope, however: the animal is far too heavy for our machines, so after standing around a lot, they decide to cut the carcass into manageable lengths and then bury it further up the beach. A final image that is memorable in the film comes when the shot of the immense carcass is paired, upside down, against a volcanic landscape that looks almost exactly like the whale.
I thought this was one of the best-achieved “art” films I had seen in a long time. It is easy to get an idea for a film that should attract attention and hold interest; but it is fiendishy difficult to actually turn that idea into a film. Kossakovsky has managed it with small human touches throughout, like the Latin American shepherd, living alone in a tiny house in which he is baking bread while he tries his best to keep his seven huge cats from burning themselves on the oven, as they march in and out, round and about the little room.
You keep smiling to yourself at the infinite variety, resourcefulness, and careless decency of people everywhere. And that puts you in the mood to wonder at the splendour of the landscape around Lake Baikal, the mountains of New Zealand, the power of Hawaii’s lava landscape. 

At the end of this film one wants to shout, “Hurrah for the human race! Hurrah for this beautiful Earth.!”

Thursday, November 7, 2013

My Log 392: Brazilian films, shown in festival in Montreal, prove to have world-class qualities of veracity and feeling

Gold :: Locality: Serra Pelada (Serra Leste) A...
Gold :: Locality: Serra Pelada (Serra Leste) Au-(Pd-Pt) deposit, Curionópolis, Carajás mineral province, Pará, North Region, Brazil (Locality at mindat.org) :: Size: miniature, 4.3 x 2.3 x 1.2 cm (39 grams) :(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Cover of "Bye Bye Brazil"
Cover of Bye Bye Brazil

Montreal seems to be bustin’ out in so-called festivals of films from around the world.  A month or so ago we had a Festival du Nouveau Cinema, with 250 films on show. (I saw only three of them and wasn’t much impressed by any of those). Last week we had a Festival of Brazilian Film, appearing for the seventh year with 20 offerings (I have seen five of them, and been mightily impressed by the high quality, and high level of general interest, of them all.) Next week comes a Festival of Moroccan Films, to be following by a massive Festival of Documentary Films, and finally a huge Festival of Francophone Films (with English sub-titles, says the advertising.)
I have been interested in Brazilian films since I saw the remarkable  Bye Bye Brazil directed by Carlos Diegues in 1979, that I still number among the handful of the best films I have ever seen.
It dealt with a rundown, seedy group of entertainers travelling into the interior of the country in a small van to entertain the few people living there, as new roads opened up the previously inaccessible Amazon hinterland.  
Apparently Diegues, now in his early seventies, is still active, but I have never come across any of his subsequent films, unfortunately, although they seem to have confirmed him as one of the most admired members of the Cine Novo movement.
None of his works is included in this year’s offering, but other celebrated directors have their work on show. Taken together the films give their audiences a stimulating account of life in this vibrant, rapidly developing nation. Perhaps the most spectacular of the films I saw is Victor Lopes’ documentary Serra Pelada, the latest in a string of movies that have been made about what is claimed to have been the biggest gold rush that has ever occurred anywhere. One film-maker recently said the manpower employed in removing the Serra Pelada mountain, some 430 kilometres south of the mouth of the Amazon, which amounted to 115,000 bodies, was the biggest accumulation of workers seen since 4000 people were involved in building the Pyramids. Late in 1979 a peasant found large nuggets of gold on his land, and within a month or so thousands of people had crowded in to take advantage of the discovery.
In the next few years these men toiled to remove the earth and carry it away, climbing up and down the sides of mountains by ladder or crudely fashioned steps. Tens of thousands, working at once, swarming over the side of the mountain like ants, covered, head to foot with mud, their bodies gleaming with it, since the earth they were digging up and carrying contained not only gold, but also elements like plutonium and palladium.
Women were forbidden from the work site, where the workers lived in crude shacks, crowded in one on top of the other, the building materials for which had to be carried in by the workers themselves because there was no other access than by plane, which dropped its passengers leaving them with a 15-kilometre walk to their workplace. Almost total anarchy appears to have held sway, with  60 to 80 unsolved murders occurring every month.

After a while a decision was made to build a town, 30 kilometres away. An architect and planner Sebastiao Rodrigues de Moura, better known as Coronel Curio, was contracted to clear away the shacks, but he decided to keep  them, and to build a respectable town in addition. He called the place Curionopolis after himself and became its first mayor, and for a time manager of the mine. I would have liked a better defined explanation of his role in the whole story, which seemed to have some sort of ruthless undertone.
The film interviews many people who became prominent in this environment in its gold rush years, but if I have one criticism to make, it is of a lack of precision in the information offered.  The garimperos, as the miners were called, appeared almost like slaves in the celebrated photos taken in the 1980s by photographer Sebastiao Salgado, and used in the films Koyaanaqqatsi and Powaqqatsi, but they apparently did not think of themselves as slaves: they were all hoping to become rich. Each of them had claim to a tiny square of land that they hoped would yield one of those fabulous gold nuggets which were each worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Eventually the barricades holding back the water collapsed, and all that remains now is a polluted lake, at the bottom of which people still believe there is gold, and they hope to find it. The mine was closed, and fell into the hands of a Canadian company, Colossus Mines, which, along with a 29 per cent holding of a co-op company, is preparing to build a regular, underground mine that they believe will make possible the mining of palladium, plutonium and gold.
The opening film at the festival was called Gonzaga, and was a biography of a simple country boy who became a famous singer in Brazil. By following the course of this character’s life  director Breno Silveira was able to provide yet another convincing and interesting version of Brazilian life along the back roads. This was the story of a man who had a successful  career, but neglected his family. The son he neglected, known to everyone as Gonzaguinha,  grew up hating and despising his father, refusing to be known as his father’s son, as he carved out his own career and became a noted singer of Brazilian ballads. The film follows them until the moment of reconciliation, when they agree at last to to appear together on stage.
Silveira was also director  of the impressive movie Along the Way, yet another exercise in discovery of the backlands of the nation. The primary character of this film is a truckdriver, deeply disillusioned, who has withdrawn into himself because of some accident in his past. He discovers  that a boy of about nine years has stowed away on his truck, in which he is heading towards Sao Paulo. It takes a long time for these two to open up to each other at which point they become united in their mutual misery, alienation and loneliness. The boy has lost his mother, and never known his father whom he is now hoping to meet, because without him the boy has nothing and nobody; the man is shown to have an abandoned daughter, and to carry the responsibility for an accident that left the girl motherless. There is only one rather mawkish moment  in this film, but that apart, this is a film dealing in powerful emotions that I found were achieved and highly effective. The film was inspired by the songs of a man called Roberto Carlos, songs that were played through the film, beautiful, expressive, slightly melancholy ballads that added immensely to the mood of the film.

The film Olga, directed by Jayme Monjardin, probably benefitted more than the othr films from the recent period of left-wing rule in Brazil. It is based on the life of Olga Benario, a German-Jewish Communist activist in pre-war Germany. Fleeing Hitler, she goes to Moscow and is assigned to accompany the leader of Brazil’s Communist party, Luiz Carlos Prestes, back to Brazil, where they are to carry out a Communist revolution. They are instructed to pretend to be married, but in fact they fall in love, and become inseparable. When the revolution fails Olga is arrested and deported to Germany to face the rigours of imprisonment and death at the hands of the Nazis. This is an amazingly emotional film, devastatingly effective and moving, and one rather doubts that it could have been made under one of Brazil’s conservative or military governments.
A film directed by Marcelo Machado celebrates the formation in the 1960s, almost simultaneous with the rise of the Beatles in England, of a Brazilian musical movement from the north-east of the country, which came to be known as Tropicalia or Tropicalismo.  This movement was stimulated in large measure by the afore-mentioned Roberto Carlos. But the leaders of the movement appear to have been singers such as Caetano Veloso, who provides a beautiful ballad in this film, and Gilberto Gil, and a group called Os Mutantes. The impact this film had on me was unusual, for with its shots of wildly enthusiastic young people in huge audiences, reacting just as people reacted to the Beatles, it reminded me of how much goes on around the world that we never hear anything about. The feeling aroused by this movement appears to have been widespread among the populace of Brazil, as were similar movements going on in other countries that are better known to us. A note on the Internet records that the group Tropicalia  became an inspiration for many in Brazil to oppose the military government of the time, even though the movement itself lasted hardly more than two years. Yet it was credited in Brazil as having changed the face of Brazilian music completely. It had been preceded by Bossa Nova, which was considered to have had a more bourgeois origin, to have represented a sort of devil-may-care, unimpassioned easy-going attitude, compared with the emotional tones of Tropicalismo  as it was sometimes called. Yet another of these Brazilian films with a strong emphasis on social change, social content, and a broad-ranging curiosity about everything in life.
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