Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Michael Moonwalks in Rio, as Brazil's Poor Samba Jackson's Music Video, Filmed in a Favela, Angers Officials

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Michael Moonwalks in Rio, as Brazil's Poor Samba Jackson's Music Video, Filmed in a Favela, Angers Officials

Article excerpt

FOR weeks Rio officials told Michael Jackson to "beat it," but on Sunday the pop star kept his promise: "I'll be there."

Mr. Jackson arrived with director Spike Lee to film several scenes for his new music video clip in the hilltop shantytown called Dona Marta.

Entitled "They Don't Care About Us," the five-minute video will depict the lives of the poor in the world's largest cities and official indifference to their plight. Lyrics will include such lines as "Am I invisible because you ignore me?"

While Dona Marta residents were ecstatic - they entertained the mega-star with samba music and promised to open a Michael Jackson museum to commemorate the visit - leading Rio officials were irate.

In the weeks prior to his visit, they lashed out at Jackson for his plan to film in one of the city's poorest slums, rather than in one of Rio's many postcard tableaus of golden beaches, gyrating samba dancers, lagoons, and stark mountains.

Ronaldo Cezar Coelho, the state secretary for commerce and industry, said the video would denigrate Rio's image and hurt the city's chances to host the Olympic Games in 2004. State Gov. Marcello Alencar even got personal. "He {Jackson} almost went to jail, and now he wants to become the hero of the poor," he told reporters.

Then Jorge Benja, a local attorney known for his nationalist sentiments - he once tried to prevent Madonna from performing in Rio, after she danced suggestively with the Brazilian flag during a Sao Paulo concert - persuaded a judge to issue a 20-day injunction against the filming.

That legal maneuver infuriated Mr. Lee, who called Rio officials "ridiculous" and "pathetic" and accused them of making Brazil look like a "banana republic." "What do these Rio authorities think? That poverty in Brazil is a secret?" he asked.

A Rio appeals court judge agreed. …

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