Rio De Janeiro Brazil Inside Out


Rio De Janeiro

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Rio de Janeiro - beautiful city, beautiful people and beaches.

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MUSIC: "The Girl From Ipanema"

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The city where a poet and a composer sitting in a cafe

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admired a gorgeous girl and wrote The Girl From Ipanema.

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If anything fulfils all our fantasies and stereotypes about Brazil,

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it's Rio and its citizens - the Cariocas.

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In this programme - soap stars and cinema stars in Brazil's artistic capital,

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catwalk fashion from gun-law ghettos,

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the baroque art of Minas Gerais, funded by the biggest gold rush the world has ever seen,

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and the humble maid who becomes... the belle of the ball.

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Rio de Janeiro, it is often said, is a city of contrasts.

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In particular, there's a huge gap between the rich and the poor.

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Because of this, the rich and the middle class

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can nearly always afford to have domestic servants - maids.

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Maids is the title of the film by Fernando Meirelles, probably Brazil's leading film-maker.

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MEIRELLES:

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There are at least three million maids in Brazil.

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I wanted to get to know a real one, to see if her life matched Meirelles' vision.

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I'm in Copacabana. It's not just a beach.

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It's the most densely-populated part of Rio, where rich and middle class people live.

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But looking around, most of the people you see are actually poor -

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the workers, the janitors and the maids.

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KNOCK ON DOOR

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DOGS BARK

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-Hello!

-BARKING DROWNS OUT SPEECH

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Teresa is a good employer to Carla, but the set-up still made me feel uneasy.

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THEY SPEAK PORTUGUESE

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CARLA:

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Meirelles's film satirises those

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who seem incapable of looking after themselves without a maid.

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Meirelles is interested in social exclusion and the tension that it causes.

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The maid is one of the only human links between the world of the poor and the world of the rich.

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By day, she may be a humble maid.

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LATIN MUSIC PLAYS AND MEN SING

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But, by night, Carla is a carnival queen.

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She's an important member of her local samba school - Villa Isabelle -

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which works all year preparing for the big carnival parade.

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Carla the flag-bearer - the star of the show.

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MUSIC AND SINGING CONTINUES

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Being flag-bearer is an important role.

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Carla is the symbolic leader of nearly 4,000 people taking part in Villa Isabelle's annual parade.

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It's a community responsibility, too. Not just on carnival day.

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Main rehearsals are watched by scores of fee-paying spectators

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who come for dinner, a show and a good night out.

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But the thing that's the most important is the flag.

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The carnival is actually a competition between dozens of samba schools.

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Villa Isabelle will try and win by putting on the best show -

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music, dancing, costumes, everything!

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Rio is a great place to shop.

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To suit all budgets.

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Barra is full of shops with exclusive designer labels.

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This is M. Officer, and they've a range of clothes made by a local label, Coopa Roca,

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fruit of the complicated Carioca relationship between rich and poor.

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Coopa Roca clothes are very distinctive.

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They're all handmade using traditional techniques from Brazil's north-east.

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No-one posh will come here. I'm in a favela, a shantytown.

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This one is Rocinha. It's one of the largest in South America,

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but up the hill, it has a very fashionable secret.

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For those expensive Coopa Roca clothes were made in this favela by a cooperative of 70 housewives.

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They may not earn much, but it's a better life than being a maid.

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Coopa Roca has forged an alliance with one of Brazil's biggest fashion designers - Carlos Miele.

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Rocinha may have come up in the world,

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but still, it's controlled by armed drugs gangs. Policeman rarely enter for fear of their lives.

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Because of Carlos Miele's publicity and marketing expertise,

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Coopa Roca's clothes are seen on fashion catwalks all over Brazil AND internationally.

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But rich women love the cachet of these exclusive clothes that come from the ghetto.

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When most people think of Rio, they think of the beach - beautiful bodies, dental floss bikinis.

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Well, it's all true. But when Cariocas talk about the beach,

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they say it's fundamental to the spirit of the city. What do they mean?

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LATIN GUITAR MUSIC PLAYS MAN BEGINS TO SING

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Pedro Luis is a singer

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who has used Rio's unique beach culture to inspire his music.

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MUSIC AND SINGING CONTINUES

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VARIOUS MEN SHOUT

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Everywhere on Rio's beaches, there are beach vendors.

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They sell food, clothes, everything.

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And it is their musical calls that form the inspiration for one of Pedro Luis's hit songs.

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Because Rio's weather is so good, the beach is where you socialise.

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Pedro Luis says this shapes the typical Carioca character.

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I'm surrounded by a bunch of preening show-offs. They take that as a compliment.

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It's the only place I've been that to be vain is good.

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Vanity's not about selfishness, but about fulfilling your social obligation to be beautiful.

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Brazilians like to show that their mixture of races has created

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the most beautiful race in the world. Not just here - everywhere, all the time.

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For 200 years, Rio was Brazil's capital city.

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It took over this role from Salvador in 1763.

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To understand why, I'm going inland to the state of Minas Gerais.

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Minas is a beautiful land of rolling hills.

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They were once very wealthy because of two things - gold and sugar.

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DRUMMING AND SINGING

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Mineiros are known for their quiet self-reliance.

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And the movement that eventually resulted in Brazil's independence from Portugal began here in Minas.

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Both miners and sugar growers, copying American revolutionaries, refused to pay huge taxes.

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And they stopped drinking fancy European drinks, and drank cachaca, distilled locally from sugar cane.

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But what made Minas rich was the discovery of gold.

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The gold rush in Minas was one of the biggest in the world,

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and Rio de Janeiro first grew to importance as the port

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exporting Minas's mineral wealth.

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This is the charming city of Ouro Preto. The names are really Wild West.

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Ouro Preto means "black gold", and it's in the state of Minas Gerais - "general mines".

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All over Minas Gerais, the most sumptuous churches were built, funded by the gold rush.

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This is the Church of Pilar.

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But then, after 50 years, the gold ran out,

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and a new style of decoration had to be developed.

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This gave rise to Brazil's greatest ever sculptor - Aleijadinho.

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-OUT OF BREATH:

-There may be loads of beautiful churches here,

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but they're all up bloody steep slopes!

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CHOIR SINGS

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With this new style, proportion is important -

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the spaces between the sculptures as much as the actual sculptures.

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I wanted to find out more about Aleijadinho.

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For a start, his name means "little cripple".

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He was incredibly disabled by leprosy. He was also self-taught.

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I went to Congonhas, to visit a modern-day sculptor.

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Luciomar has worked out how Aleijadinho must have worked

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to compensate for the gradual loss of his fingers through leprosy.

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Yet Aleijadinho's work changed the course of Brazilian baroque.

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And his Last Supper shows how individual detail transforms its emotional impact.

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LUCIOMAR:

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Back in Rio, the sun doesn't always shine.

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And when it rains, you can always watch TV.

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Everyone in Brazil watches Globo, the main channel.

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In fact, Globo is one of the world's big players in TV.

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This is A Taste Of Passion - Sabor da Paixao.

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It's one of TV Globo's four daily soap operas.

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It started a few weeks ago, but it's bound to have a HUGE impact.

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What's interesting about it is that it's set in Lapa, a newly-trendy district of Rio.

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And they've built a replica here of the area in the TV studio.

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I've come to meet Pedro Rangel, one of the stars of the new production.

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THEIR VOICES ARE INDISTINCT

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Pedro has a great advantage in playing this character -

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he was born and brought up in the REAL Lapa.

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NEW SPEAKER:

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Because of the rain, Pedro Rangel's filming was cancelled the next day.

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So he agreed to show me around Lapa and how it was changing.

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'Amongst these people grew up a character type that Rio is now famous for - the malandro.'

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Lapa is coming alive again now,

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helped on by the interest in Globo's soap opera.

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Even the old dance halls, where malandros hung out, are being revived.

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And the traditional malandro music - choro - is back in vogue.

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In the next programme, I'll be exploring the Amazon rainforest,

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discovering the opera house there

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with an orchestra of Eastern Europeans.

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And investigating the craze for eighties' house music

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amongst indigenous tribes.

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Journalist and author Alex Bellos discovers the dynamic and varied cultural life of Brazil.

In Rio de Janeiro, film-maker Fernando Meirelles looks at the life of domestic servants who become carnival queens by night, Globo TV and the power of soap opera, exclusive fashion from the ghettos and life on the beach.


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