Magazine article Americas Quarterly

Casa Grande

Magazine article Americas Quarterly

Casa Grande

Article excerpt

In the locker room of his private, all boys high school, 17-year-old Jean bickers with his classmates over an unpaid debt. "Like father, like son," says one of Jean's friends before the boys collide in a classic locker-room brawl. It's an emotional and revealing scene in Casa Grande (literally "the big house," but released under its English title, The Ballad of Poor Jean), which examines class hierarchy and race in Brazil.

The plot focuses on Jean, the son of an upper-class Carioca family in Rio de Janeiro that is facing bankruptcy following the failure of his father's hedge fund. Even as Jean's overprotective parents try to shield their children from their economic troubles, he is gradually exposed to life outside his privileged community, eventually falling in love with Luiza, a mixed-race girl he meets on the bus. Luiza quickly becomes a foil for Jean's European immigrant family and the subject of a heated discussion on the recently adopted racebased quotas in Brazilian universities. …

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