Ass-less chaps and timeless wisdom at Cinebrasil


Cinebrasil is part of the Watson Institute’s Brazil Initiative

I went to Cinebrasil, Brown’s annual Brazilian film series, to enrich my understanding of foreign cultures and score participation points for my Intro to Portuguese class. The film they showed was Tatougem (translated to English, “tattoo”), a drama that follows a LGBTQ theater group called The Star Spangled Floor. The film is set in the 1970’s when Brazil was ruled under a military dictatorship.

Before the movie, a professor from the Portuguese and Brazilian Studies Department told the crowd that Brown has the largest collection of Brazilian films in the U.S. (woot woot). The professor then promised that the film would be a “steamy story of chaos and liberation.” As the lights dimmed, I made a baldfaced grab for the armrest before the guy sitting next to me could get to it. Boom. Ready to go.

I’m not going to summarize the plot for you, because Wikipedia can do that a lot better than I can. I’m just going to share with you some interesting aspects of the film.


“Resorting to sensuality, they did get some laughs.” —A newspaper quoted in the film, referring to the Star Spangled Floor (above)

If you want to see the sun and the moon get in a fight, watch Tatouagem. Towards the end of the film, two performers in the Star Spangled Floor—one painted silver like the moon, the other golden like the sun—start going at each other during a performance. Sun disses the moon for not being radiant, but Moon counters that he does not need to be because he just reflects the light of the sun. Sun then insults Moon’s ugly craters. Moon counters with, “Yeah, well at least I don’t have all of your disgusting eruptions!” That just about settles it.

In my beginners’ Portuguese class I’ve learned to say things like, “Hello! After breakfast in the morning I generally ride my bicycle rapidly to Portuguese class, but it’s Wednesday so the chalk is not joyful, no.” Unfortunately, the characters in the film rarely discussed their post-breakfast transportation habits or the disposition of writing implements, so I had to rely mostly on the subtitles.

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5 things to take away from the Ricardo Lagos lecture

10-7 Lagos quo vadis poster

Former President of Chile Ricardo Lagos came to speak at the Joukowsky Forum at the Watson Institute yesterday. Mr. Lagos is well-known for being the first socialist to take office since Salvador Allende (1966-9), and for standing up to Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship–when, following an American-backed coup, between 1974 and 1990, Pinochet’s military government detained 80,000 people and tortured almost 30,000.

Since leaving office in 2006, Lagos has been committed to promoting democracy in Latin America and around the world. The Chilean political rockstar came to the Watson Institute to ask one question, Quo Vadis (Latin for Where are you going), Latin America?

1. Latin America is more politically stable and economically progressive than the rest of the world thinks.

Currently, all Latin American states are considered democracies. Some of them are headed by women, and Brazil, the region’s most powerful nation, is currently led by a trade union advocate.

Even though that positive picture oversimplifies the political climate, above all, it shows that the region that was once plagued by conservative dictatorships is now experiencing a paradigm shift to the political left.

At the same time, the major powers in the region, namely Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Uruguay, Argentina, Chile and Brazil are all projected to have close to $30,000 in GDP per capita within the next 10 years. In short, the region is experiencing converging rates of growth, with some countries seeing double per capita growth rates.

Mr Lagos pointed out that Latin American countries were innocent in the most recent financial recession, but that the region is not estranged from economic crisis. In fact, Latin American nations have experienced so many economic crises that they now have extremely durable systems, which makes growth rates all the more promising. Continue Reading

Students who do cool things: Caroline Sagalchik ’13

An AT&T New Media Fellow, Caroline Sagalchik ’13 spent this past winter and semester creating a documentary called “Of Sand and Fur” (above… and you should definitely check it out) about the Russian-Jewish immigrant community Brigthon Beach, Brooklyn. Brighton Beach is one of the largest Russian-speaking immigrant communities in the country. Through the fellowship, Caroline was able to interact with the community in Brighton Beach and reach her audience by engaging with the topic of assimilation.

The documentary was recently featured on the Watson Institute’s website.

The project was especially meaningful because she had grown up with exposure to Russian and American cultures. Here’s a bit on the experience in Caroline’s words, after the jump. Continue Reading

SPONSORED: Watson Institute to host panel discussion on India and China

Experts from the Brookings Institution and MIT will come together at the Watson Institute this week to discuss political and security issues in Asia. The panel discussion, “Security Perspectives on a Rising Asia: China and India,” will take place on Friday, May 4, at 2 p.m. at Watson’s Joukowsky Forum.

The four-person panel will touch on issues including Chinese and Indian views of a desirable international system, as well as China and India’s policies towards key international players and their smaller neighbors alike. The panelists are also expected to discuss the two countries’ nuclear policies and their roles in international organizations.

The four panelists are: Stephen P. Cohen, a Brookings senior fellow in foreign policy with expertise in India, Pakistan, South Asian security, and proliferation issues; Jonathan Pollack, a Brookings senior fellow in foreign policy with expertise in Chinese political-military strategy, U.S.-China relations, the political and security dynamics of the Korean Peninsula, and U.S. strategy and policy in Asia and the Pacific; Vipin Narang, an assistant professor of political science at MIT whose research interests include nuclear proliferation, South Asian security, quantitative conflict studies, international relations theory, and general security studies; and M. Taylor Fravel, an associate professor of political science and member of the Security Studies Program at MIT.

“Security Perspectives on a Rising Asia: China and India” is part of Brown’s Year of China, a yearlong initiative examining China’s culture, history, people, geography, and neighbors, and its relation to the world. The Year of China initiative aims to explore China’s past, present, and possible future through an array of programs across disciplines.

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Filmmaker and peace activists discuss ‘Little Town of Bethlehem’ and global relations

A  screening of “Little Town of Bethlehem,” a documentary about peace activists in Israel and Palestine, and panel discussion with the filmmaker and one of the featured activists took place in the Salomon Center last night though the Watson Institute for International Studies and the University of Rhode Island.

“Little Town of Bethlehem” sounds like the name of a Christmas special to Western ears, but in reality the town is the hub of Palestinian culture, conflict and, even more so now, reconciliation.

The American imagination also would pit Palestinian Christian Sami Awad, Palestinian Muslim Ahmad Al’Azzeh and Israeli Jew Yonatan Shapira against one another. They are members of famously warring communities. Yet they star in this documentary as peace activists. What drew them all to the film is that they believe in the lessons we all learned in preschool and later discounted as idealistic. They care about the wellbeing, security and sanity of people — all types of people. And they recognize that more violence is not the answer to violence, though they have seen it treated as such.  Continue Reading