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attempted cultural immersion


i'm on to a new endeavor: learning portuguese. specifically, i'm taking a class entitled "brazilian portuguese for spanish speakers." the idea behind it, seemingly, that knowing some of the rules of spanish make it easier to learn portuguese. i am finding that portuguese looks a bit like spanish, not a whole lot, in my opinion, but enough for me to be able to gather enough info on a particular bit of writing in order to infer a meaning. but...it sounds not a thing like spanish. in my opinion. i tend to think spanish is a clean, easy language: if you know the general rules of pronunciation, diction, and spelling, while there might be a lot of them, are pretty much always applicable. in portuguese, i'm getting a lot of sometimes, maybe, and because.

that said, i LOVE my class. it's a great challenge, and i really wanna learn the language. my teacher encourages the class to visit brazilian websites, listen to brazilian music, watch brazilian movies. hmmm...i own city of god (cidade de deus, yes, i finally know how to actually pronounce that properly) so i've been watching it. which leads me to the most recent film i saw.

and a couple of weeks ago, i got the documentary bus 174 from netflix. took me a while to get into it, but i enjoyed it once i did. it's a no frills documentary about a man, sandro rosa do nascimento, who boarded a crowded bus one day in day in 2000 in rio de janeiro and took everyone on board hostage. in an attempt to get at the reasons why he did this, the doc. examined his background (his mother had been stabbed to death in front of him when he was a kid, homeless, living on the streets with a bunch of other kids, many of whom were massacred in front of the church where the slept). an examination of social ills that manage to be both peculiar to brazil and analogous to lots of other places. the criminal - human, understandably frustrated and paradoxically troubled to the point of committing completely incomprehensible acts. didn't offer remedies, though it did reflect on the rightness/wrongness of the principal players. the filmmakers interviewed the hostages, police involved in the standoff, sandro's aunt, some of his friends.

the one thing that made me go hmmmm: they also interviewed a random college professor who read a whole lot of literary theory into the incident. now, in life, i love literary theory, but it didn't seem appropriate here. the rest of the documentary seemed so unpretentious, and seemed to examine its central character as though he were a real human being, not an archetype. that did not sit well with me. i got the dvd becase i had seen favela rising, and after i rated it on netflix, i read some of the reviews and found some people who found it to be too adoring and a touch out of touch, given that the film is the work of outsider americans. and one of the reviewers recommended bus 174. and yet, i thought this professor man that the makers of bus 174 brought on board the project - it would have made more sense to me if they had loaned him to favela rising to talk his theory there. because favela rising was obviously framing its protagonist as a archetypal figure, and bus 174, without any camera tricks, without much other allegory, otherwise not spinning any (anti) fairy tales - it seemed so earnest and grassroots. and the strict intellectual seemed out of place.

and by the way, bus 174 is long. i've watched it all and sent it back, so i suppose now i need another film in brazilian portuguese to watch. gotta keep those skills sharp. i really love languages. i should've been a comp lit major in college, or something.

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