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Day 57: Barra da Tijuca

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Touring the Globo back-lot with Carolina. Big blue screen on right is for computer graphic projections.
Michael Palin - BrazilThe audience for these soaps is enormous. Carolina thinks that some seventy million people are tuning into Avenida Brasil every night. That's over fifty percent of Brazil's total TV audience. And they are from every kind of background.

'It's very democratic,' she says.

She sees the soaps as something more than just national wallpaper. They have, she thinks, a social obligation. To show me what she means we buggy across to another part of the lot where they have built a mock shanty town complete with wrecked cars and graffitied huts beside a huge, meticulously recreated rubbish dump. It's the sort of combination you'd find on the outskirts of any big Brazilian city. But in the new, caring Brazil these people are no longer ignored. Thanks to sympathetic books and films, there is growing interest in the scavengers. They've become new folk heroes, recycling the mountains of other people's rubbish, because they'd rather be in control of their own lives than live off handouts.

'There is no organic matter anywhere on the tip!' a Globo PR lady shouts reassuringly, as we walk across to investigate these skilfully crafted mountains of garbage.

One of the characters in Carolina's latest story is a woman who can only find work combing through the rubbish.

'She's raised in a place like this, but she breaks through, she becomes a hero,' Carolina explains. Then she adds, 'Imagine seventy or eighty million people discussing this every night.'

The difference between the soaps here and those in the UK or America is that Brazilian soaps have a finite lifespan. Instead of running on for thirty or forty years, they are limited to something like 196 episodes, lasting no more than nine months. Carolina approves. She thinks this is what keeps the audience's attention focused. And as an actor who's been in soaps for twenty-five years, it means that she can play a wide variety of characters.

Carolina is a good companion and I'm pleased that she wants to meet up again when we reach São Paulo. She commutes between the two major cities and has an interesting take on their differences.

'São Paulo is a male. Rio is a female. She's quite an old female. She's still sensual but a bit decadent. São Paulo is an older man. He's a little formal at first, but when you get to know him he can be very sweet to you.'
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  • Series: Brazil
  • Chapter: Day 57: Barra da Tijuca
  • Country/sea: Brazil
  • Place: Barra da Tijuca
  • Book page no: 244

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