Rio Carnival: Prof. Dines on The Boogying Hitler Controversy

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The Viradouro allegorical car: “And all the politicians making crazy sounds / and all the dead bodies piled up in mounds / Oh, and I guess I just don’t know” (Lou Reed).

Prof. Alberto Dines, grand old man of the Observatório da Imprensa (Brazil), weighs in on this year’s samba do Hitler doido controversy. See

O Holocausto, até agora não deu samba, mas já produziu duas comédias extraordinárias, comoventes (La Vita è Bella, de Roberto Benigni e Train of Life, de Radu Mihaileanu, de 1997 e 1998, respectivamente).

The Holocaust, although it has never provided the theme for a Carnaval samba-enredo, has produced two extraordinary, moving comedies: La Vita è Bella, by Roberto Benigni (1997) and Train of Life (1998), by Radu Mihaileanu.

Mr. Dines is obviously much better versed in contemporary Franco-Romanian film than I am. Note to self: Rent Mihaileanu flicks.

But I would also nominate To Be or Not to Be, with Mel “Blazing Saddles” Brooks and Ann “Mrs. Robinson” Bancroft (1983). Polanski’s The Pianist might be partially on point as a meditation on art, survival and the defense of humanism.

And if Hitler was really to appear on the float, sambando, The Great Dictator might be a worthwhile re-rental as well.

(We own a copy, and would lend it to you , but it is useless here in Brazil because it was bought it in a global zone where the DVDs get an alien encoding. Welcome to the global knowledge society, global villager.)

Antes de exibidas provocaram reações indignadas das comunidades judaicas do mundo inteiro. A qualidade artística de ambas, a mágica de manter juntos o riso e a lembrança da dor, calou os inconformados e intolerantes. Uma década depois, ninguém fala em desrespeito ao luto.

Before their debut, the films provoked indignant reactions from Jewish communities around the world. But the artistic quality of both films, the magic of balancing laugher with painful memory, melted the hearts of the angry and intolerant. A decade later, no one speaks of disrespect for mourning [in connection with either.]

I attended the San Francisco premier of Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ in the early 1980s. There were picketing nuns and counterpickets by the Holy Sisters of the Gaga Dada — nun-costumed drag queens. San Francisco. I miss that crazy town.

I find that movie extremely moving, in a religious sense. I had read the book by Kazantzakis.

O filme A Queda, sobre os últimos dias de Hitler no bunker em Berlim, também foi precedido de críticas às tentativas de humanizar a besta. Depois verificou-se a sua inestimável contribuição para retratar as deformações mentais produzidas pelo nazi-fascismo.

The film Der Untergang (Downfall), about Hitler’s last days in his Berlin bunker, was also preceded by criticism of an alleged attempt to humanize the monster. Afterwards, it was recognized for its invaluable contribution to portraying the mental deformations produced by Nazi-Fascism.

I attended the premiere in New York, at Film Forum, and afterwards watched Bruno “The American Friend” Ganz being asked by some chirpy little entertainment TV reporter whether the role had not been a little stressful to play.

Ja, a little bit on the stressful side, maybe. I captured the moment on my cellphone video recorder, but have mislaid the footage.

O carro alegórico da Escola de Samba Viradouro (Rio) sobre o Holocausto dos judeus na Segunda Guerra Mundial dentro do enredo “É de arrepiar” converteu-se numa ode à insensatez, à qual a mídia ofereceu significativa contribuição.

The float by Rio escola de samba Viradouro on the Holocaust of Jews during WWII, part of a theme titled “It gives you chills,” became an ode to insensitivity, to which the media made a substantial contribution.

O episódio começou de forma civilizada. O carnavalesco Paulo Barros procurou a Federação Israelita do Rio de Janeiro (Fierj) para explicar a sua idéia e garantir a sobriedade da sua criação. Não haveria mulatas, alegria, ziriguidum. As conversas prosseguiram neste nível e tudo indicava um desfecho consensual. Até a mídia entrar em ação por intermédio do colunista Adriano Silva (Época, edição 506, pág.110).

The episode began in a civilized fashion. Carnival director Paulo Barros contacted the Israeli Federation of Rio (FIERJ) to explain his idea and guarantee a sober treatment of the topic. There would be no [hot black girls shaking it, no joy and fun, no chica chica boom chic.] Negotiations proceeded on that basis and everything pointed to a consensus being reached.

This is the first I am hearing of this aspect of the story.

The media even got into the act through the mediation of columnist Adriano Silva (Época [Editora Globo] No. 506, p. 110).

Seu artigo “Ninguém deve censurar o Carnaval”, aparentemente bem-intencionado, porém tomado por aquela indignação fácil que hoje domina nossa mídia (nela compreendidos os mediados), contém uma coleção de atrocidades que provocou extremada reação de certas alas da Fierj. A justiça foi acionada, embargou o carro alegórico e Paulo Barros fez exatamente aquilo que se espera de quem é vítima de uma censura: driblou-a. Substituiu a alegoria contra o Holocausto numa alegoria a favor da liberdade de expressão.

His article “No one ought to censor Carnaval,” apparently well-intentioned but received with that sort of facile indignation that today dominates our media (and the “mediated” [its subjects and sources] as well), contained a series of atrocities that provoked extreme reactions from some quarters at FIERJ. A lawsuit was filed, the float was banned, and Paulo Barros did exactly what you would expect of someone who has been subject to censorship: He found a way around it, exchanging a float condemning the Holocaust for a float in favor of freedom of expression.

Enredo ousado

A daring theme

O que escreveu o colunista de “Época”?

What did the Época columnist write?

This is not a question I generally care to know the answer to, personally. Época pretty much stinks, so I never buy it.

“Os judeus não são os donos do Holocausto.” – Correto: dono do Holocausto é o nazifascismo e seus diferentes subprodutos que continuam espalhando o ódio racial e religioso em todos os quadrantes do mundo.

“The Jews do not own the Holocaust.” This correct: The owner of the Holocaust is Nazi-Fascism and its various by-products, which continue to spread racial and religious hatred throughout the world.

Os judeus são as maiores vítimas do Holocausto. Nesta condição, os judeus – observantes ou seculares, ortodoxos ou agnósticos, sionistas ou internacionalistas, de direita ou de esquerda – têm o direito e o dever moral, como seres humanos atingidos pelo sofrimento, de reagir às tentativas de negar, minimizar ou ridicularizar a catástrofe que atingiu suas famílias. Foi esta compreensão que levou Paulo Barros à Fierj.

Jews were the greatest victims of the Holocaust. In that sense, Jews — whether observant or secular, orthodox or agnostic, Zionists or internationalists, of the political right or left — have the right, or the moral duty, as a human beings afflicted by suffering, to respond to attempts to deny, minimize or ridicule the catastrophe that befell their families. It was a comprehension of this fact that led Barros to go to FIERJ.

“Quem tem de decidir se o Holocausto pode ser tema de desfile são os carnavalescos, não a Federação Israelita.” – Errado: os carnavalescos não têm legitimidade para representar a sociedade. Sua criatividade como artistas não pode colocá-los na contramão dos sentimentos gerais. Sobretudo porque um enredo de escola de samba não é obra individual, mas coletiva, montada (teoricamente) à custa do município. O carnavalesco Paulo Barros compreendeu isso de forma nobre, superior. Já o jornalista optou pela retórica fácil do trombone.

“The carnival directors, not FIERJ, should decided whether the Holocaust can be a carnival theme,” [the Época columnist wrote.]

Wrong. Carnival directors have no legitimate standing to represent society. Their artistic creativity cannot make them immune to public sentiment, above all because the theme of a Carnaval parade is not an individual work, but a collective one, produced (in theory) with city funds. Paulo Barros demonstrated a noble, superior understanding of this fact. The journalist, on the other hand, opted for the facile rhetoric of “putting his mouth to the trombone.”

As a trombonist, I am always very slightly offended by this amusing Brazilian commonplace.

Wagner, Mahler, Verdi, swinging big bands, and Latin jazz orchestras would lack gravitas and lyricism were it not for our rich and versatile voices.

Very slightly. In Brazil, tromboning actually commands quite a bit of respect — as the fact that there is a well-known proverb about it shows — which always makes me happy to see.

“Ninguém deve censurar o Carnaval” (título do artigo) – A afirmação será validada no dia em que um carnavalesco ousar um enredo sobre a íntima relação de contravenção, corrupção e narcotráfico. Até lá a liberdade de expressão dos carnavalescos ficará no plano ideal.

“No one should censor Carnaval” (the article’s headline). That statement will be valid when the day comes that a carnival society takes on the intimate relations between the rackets, corruption and the narcotraffic. Until that day comes, the issue of freedom of expression for carnival societies will remain on an abstract level.

Youch.

Mr. Dines pulls no punches.

But I think that is a valid point.

Dá samba

[It is a fit subject for a samba(?)]

Quanto este observador soube da alegoria da Viradouro imaginou que nós, brasileiros, mais uma vez encontraríamos uma forma engenhosa, consensual e criativa de contornar eventuais divergências. Quando leu o texto de Época achou-o carente da indispensável delicadeza que o tema e a situação exigiam.

When this observer learned of Viradouro’s float, he imagined that we Brazilians would once again find an ingenious, consensus-based, creative way to avoid any dissension. When I read the Época article, I thought it lacked the necessary tact that the topic and the situation demanded.

The usual hysterical shrieking for freedom without (from) responsibility. See also


On “The Brazilian Letterman” (Globo’s
Jô Xô), Mainardi of Veja magazine (Brazil) defines freedom of expression with a tautology. See Seen on “The Brazilian Letterman Show”: Diogo Mainardi on the Journalism of Buzz.

Este observador não se considera dono do Holocausto, é um dos enlutados por esta incomensurável violência. Perdeu na Ucrânia, em 13 de julho de 1942, cerca de 20 parentes de primeiro grau (avó paterna, tios e primos), 30 ou 40 no total, se computados parentes um pouco mais distantes. Não se revoltou contra a alegoria.

This observer does not consider that he owns the Holocaust, and is one of those who mourns for its boundless violence. In Ukraine, on July 13, 1942, he lost nearly 20 close relatives (paternal grandmother, uncles and cousins), and 30 or 40 in all, counting more distant relatives. And he was not revolted by the float.

My late grandfather used to tell the story of how he and his unit — he was an Army major in the First Army, I think, at the time — happened across a concentration camp during his happy little European Wanderjahr in 1944-5, whistling “The Happy Wanderer.”

He always made a point of saying how profoundly revolted he was by the experience.

Já os radicais da Fierj leram o texto de Época como se fosse um desafio do carnavalesco Paulo Barros. O resultado é conhecido. O Holocausto vai dar samba.

But the radicals at FIERJ read the Época article as if it were an act of defiance from Barros. The results are well known. The Holocaust is going to become a samba.

As I said, my wife was immediately indignant at the idea herself, and in favor of banning the float, but later conceded that she would have to actually see the treatment to be given to the subject before judging it.

This, I thought, was what was utterly lacking in the coverage I read.

What was the float going to be like? How would the subject be presented?

The incident reminds me Rudy Giuliani’s outrage, a few years ago, over a painting of the Virgin Mary that used elephant dung as a material.

This at our beloved Brooklyn Museum, just around the corner there from NMM(-TV)NSB(B)CNN(P)BS North American Webcast Central (our fourth-floor walk-up, railroad-style tenement apartment, owned free and clear, no subprime mortgages involved. Lar, doce lar).

Rudy “put his mouth to the trombone” on his weekly radio show, calling it a sacrilege, threatening to yank city funding for the museum, and screaming for protests.

He later admitted he had never seen the work or talked to the artist, who explained that she was using a traditional West African painting technique — there are parts of the world where people use dried herbivore dung to build their houses, you know, and find nothing shitty about it — and that this was not another instance of the infamous “Piss Christ” provocation.

Rudy Giuliani is an ass, a crass little exploiter of the politics of division in its crudest form.

Good riddance to the guy. I would rather see a responsible adult representing the conservative point of view. I would not vote for McCain at this point — the GOP must be severely punished for its sins — but over the years, he seems to have mostly kept up his dues to the reality-based community.

A Wikipedian on To Be or Not to Be:

This remake was one of the first major American films to acknowledge that homosexuals were persecuted by the Third Reich, along with other Holocaust victims. Aside from the homosexuality issue, this version was extremely faithful to the 1942 version, and in many cases dialogue was taken verbatim from the earlier film. The character of the treacherous Professor Siletsky (here spelled Siletski) was, however, made into more of a comic figure, and even into somewhat of a buffoon, whereas in the original he was the one completely serious character in the film.

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