Page last updated at 10:18 GMT, Monday, 23 November 2009

Brazil president Lula's biopic in election date clash

Gary Duffy
BBC News, Sao Paulo

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of Brazil
President Lula is barred from running for a third term

The first public screenings have taken place in Brazil of a controversial new film about the life of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

The film opened a festival in the capital Brasilia and was also shown to a large audience in the president's home state of Pernambuco.

But the timing of its release next year has been criticised.

It coincides with an election when the president is hoping to see his chief of staff elected as his successor.

The film, Lula Son of Brazil, will go on general release on 1 January next year, just 10 months before the country will choose a successor for President Lula, who is barred from running for a third consecutive term.

It will be the first time in 20 years that he will not be standing as a presidential candidate, but his powerful personality seems certain to play a prominent part in the campaign.

Abusive father

The president hopes to see his influential chief of staff, Dilma Rousseff, elected as his successor, and opposition politicians have raised concerns that the screen version of his life story will boost that effort.

No-one disputes that the life of President Lula provides a powerful story and enough material to form the basis of an emotional film.

He was born in one of the poorest parts of the country, and like millions of others from the north east of Brazil, his family moved south to Sao Paulo in search of work and a better life.

Actors at the Brasilia Film Festival
The film, starring Brazilian actors, tells the powerful story of Lula's life

Much of the focus of the film is on the courage of the president's mother raising the family after they were abandoned by his drunken and abusive father.

As a child President Lula cleaned shoes on the streets, and later as a factory worker he lost part of a finger in an accident.

His first wife died in child birth, and when he became active in politics as a union leader he was arrested under Brazil's military dictatorship.

The film's producers sought private funding to avoid using public money but there has been criticism that some of the firms which provided sponsorship are involved in lucrative government work.

However supporters of the project insist that it was important to tell the story of a president whose early life reflects the experience of millions of Brazil's poorest citizens.

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