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A Lesson in Sambodian Hermeneutics | Globo on the Upstairs-Downstairs Dynamic

ConflictInterpretations

An excitingly fresh take on some classic themes and ideas, THE SECOND MOTHER centers around Val, a hard-working live-in housekeeper in modern day Sao Paulo. Val is perfectly content to take care of every one of her wealthy employers’ needs, from cooking and cleaning to being a surrogate mother to their teenage son, who she has raised since he was a toddler. But when Val’s estranged daughter Jessica suddenly shows up the unspoken but intrinsic class barriers that exist within the home are thrown into disarray. Jessica is smart, confident, and ambitious, and refuses to accept the upstairs/downstairs dynamic, testing relationships and loyalties and forcing everyone to reconsider what family really means.

By: Rodrigo Vianna

Fonte: Escrevinhador

Ricardo Calil just doesn’t get it. In his UOL-hosted blog, the movie critic expresses surprise at the way Globo journalism interpreted the recently released film «What Time Does She Get Home?» [English: The Second Mother] during its Sunday-evening variety show, Fantástico.

The film, according to Calil, is «a critical reflection on the social contradictions of contemporary Brazil focusing on the relations of an upper class São Paulo family with their maid and her daughter (who arrives from Recife and lives for a time in the house of her mother’s employers).

The film by Anna Muylaert — who has enjoyed international success thanks to her Oscar nomination — reveals the degree to which class relations remain subject to the «big house and the slave quarters» [Gilberto Freyre] dynamic as well the degree to which Brazil has liberated itself from such relations in recent years.

The Sunday night program on the Globo network, however, managed to transform the film starring Globo actress and host Regina Case into «a love story among servants and bosses,  juxtaposing two real and “edifying” stories on the same theme».

Globo Journalism and its director, Ali Kamel, is not fond of making contradictions explicit. As Kamel argues in [his 2004 book], «We are not racists».

What is curious is that Anna Muylaert’s film is a Globo Filmes co-production — co-produced by Globo’s film studio division.

«This makes the Fantastico report a curious case of marketing a film in terms that contradict its message,» writes Calil, who cautions: «We have not seen anything like since Globo turned criticism of its Tim Maia biopic by Robert Carlos into positive reviews … »

Calil accompanies his review with an interview of the director in which she explains what the film is about …

Calil: «The film is a portrait of the social divide among its characters excitingly fresh take on some classic themes and ideas, THE SECOND MOTHER centers around Val, a hard-working live-in housekeeper in modern day Sao Paulo. Val is perfectly content to take care of every one of her wealthy employers’ needs, from cooking and cleaning to being a surrogate mother to their teenage son, who she has raised since he was a toddler. But when Val’s estranged daughter Jessica suddenly shows up the unspoken but intrinsic class barriers that exist within the home are thrown into disarray. Jessica is smart, confident, and ambitious, and refuses to accept the upstairs/downstairs dynamic, testing relationships and loyalties and forcing everyone to reconsider what family really means. and the breaking of established social norms. How do you see the employer-domestic employee relationship in Brazil?»

Anna Muylaert: I think the constitutional amendment regard domestic workers was a great step toward their professionalization, but I also think that Brazil has not yet abandoned its deeply seated, colonialist habits of mind.

Did the constitutional amendment figure into the writing of the film?

I wrote this screenplay with an eye toward the lack of rules for social companionship and solidarity. These rules of social separation, as we know, are not spoken of, but they exist. When I made Jessica such a self-confident woman, I was not thinking of politics, but rather of breaking a certain stereotype about the daughter of the help.

«When the film was complete, however, everyone thought it was a film about Brazil post-Lula. And I agreed. A character like Jessica would not have been realistic before the Lula government. … [it depicts] a Brazilian people with a great deal more self-confidence than before. I think the amendment governing domestic workers has a lot to do with the film’s ending. I think it was an important step to removing the stigma of slavery and making the domestic worker a worker like any other. »

That is to say, moviegoers expecting a love story about employers and maids will be about as satisfied as moviegoers expecting Wagner Moura of «Futuro Beach» to reprise the machismo of Captain Nascimento from «Elite Troop».