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Brazil in the 21st century has become a global player. With a booming economy and massive social changes, there is a swagger to this once-sleeping giant, but what do we know of it apart from football and carnival? Michael Palin has travelled across most of the globe over the years, but never to Brazil. In this four-part series he crosses the country as big as a continent to find out what makes it tick.

Genres: Travel
Station: BBC One (UK)
Rating: 9/10 from 2 users
Status: Ended
Start: 2012-10-24

Brazil with Michael Palin Air Dates


S01E01 - Out of Africa Air Date: 24 October 2012 20:00 -

He begins his journey in the north east, where modern Brazil was born. It was here the Portuguese explorers first landed and encountered the native Brazilians. It was here that hundreds of thousands of African slaves were brought to work on sugar and tobacco plantations, and it was here where this mix of races and cultures produced what we now think of as Brazil. Music, food, dance, religion - all of these bear the imprint of this heady mix.

He starts in the city of Sao Luis during the celebration of its own very north eastern festival of Bumba Meu Boi - 'Jump My Bull' - before travelling down the coast to Recife and Salvador. On his way, he drops in on the vaqueros - Brazilian cowboys - who work the massive cattle ranches of the dry interior. His travels also take him to the stunning coastal lagoons of the Lencois Maranheses national park.

In Salvador he learns to drum with the famous Olodum school, experiences the trance and dance of Candomble, the Afro-Brazilian religion, finds out how to cook Bahian-style with renowned cook, Dada, and discovers what lies behind the beguiling moves of capoeria dancers. If you want to know what makes Brazil so vibrant, the north east is the place to start.


S01E02 - Into Amazonia Air Date: 31 October 2012 21:00 -

Michael Palin travels from Brazil's northern border with Venezuela along the Rivers Branco, Negro, Amazon, Tapajos and Xingu, through the very heart of the Amazonia, before ending up at the capital Brasilia. He visits indigenous tribes like the Yanomami, and talks to their shaman and chief spokesperson Davi about the threats to their traditional way of life.

On the Rio Negro he encounters Elias, one of the last seringueiros, or rubber tappers, and watches the Amazon Philharmonic Orchestra rehearse in the magnificent Manaus Opera House. Travelling by river boat he heads up the Tapajos river to Fordlandia, to seek out what remains of Henry Ford's bold but ultimately unsuccessful attempt to build a rubber plantation the size of Wales in the middle of the rainforest.

In Belem at the mouth of the Amazon, he is dazzled by the exotic Amazonian foods that chef Thiago uses in his kitchen and learns from music producer Priscilla why Amazonian women like her and her protégé singer Gaby Amarantos are such powerful forces.

Travelling ever southwards to the upper reaches of the Xingu river he is welcomed to the Wauja tribe, one of the most colourful of all the Brazilian indigenous peoples. Anthroplogist-in-residence Emi Ireland helps explain their rich and complex rituals as well as why the Wauja women would like to marry Michael. The threats to their land and way of life from dam building, deemed necessary for the increasing exploitation of Brazil's abundant natural resources, is discussed with Wauja shaman Itsautaku.

In Brasilia he meets up with rock star and political activist Dinho Ouro Preto who thinks Brazil, despite all its social and environmental problems, is on the brink of fulfilling its destiny as a super power.


S01E03 - The Road to Rio Air Date: 07 November 2012 21:00 -

In the third part of his Brazilian odyssey, Michael Palin visits the source of Brazil's great mineral wealth and then travels to one of the world's greatest cities to see how this new-found wealth is being spent, changing the lives of millions of its inhabitants.

Michael starts this leg of the journey in the mineral-rich state of Minas Gerais - General Mines. He visits an old gold mine once owned by the British, before going to see a vast opencast iron ore mine that is such a feature of the Minas landscape. Iron ore deposits that are fuelling Brazil's economic miracle but there is always an environmental price to pay, and Michael meets some ordinary Brazilians who are dedicated to preserving the natural beauty of the state.

After Minas it's down to Rio de Janeiro, host to the next Olympics and World Cup. Rio has always had a reputation as a party town but also has suffered from terrible violence, with heavily armed drug gangs controlling the notorious shanty towns or favelas that make up a large part of the city. Now, the authorities have decided to spend some of Brazil's new money on healing the rift between the favelas and the rest of the city. The policy of 'pacification' aims to drive the drug gangs out and fund new infrastructure and social programmes to make the favelas truly part of the city. Michael visits what used to be some of the most violent places on Earth to see how lives have been transformed by pacification.

Michael's time in Rio isn't all about what is happening in the favelas. He also finds time to visit some of Rio's best-known locations, learns how to celebrate a goal like a Brazilian radio commentator, and books a room in one of the city's infamous 'love hotels'!


S01E04 - The Deep South Air Date: 14 November 2012 21:00 -

In the final episode of his travels through Brazil, Michael Palin finds many surprises as he encounters the rich diversity of the more European and Asian cultures that have created a new melting pot in the deep south of Brazil.

In the picture-perfect town of Parati, set amidst the Mata Atlantica, he meets up with Prince Joao de Braganza, heir to the defunct throne of Brazil. The prince argues that the arrival of the Portuguese court in Brazil, who escaped from Napoleon's occupation, did much to establish the institutions that have enabled Brazil's economy to flourish.

Michael joins Carolina Ferraz, star of a galaxy of telenovellas, the immensely popular Brazilian soap operas, on the backlot of her most recent TV success, where issues of poverty fuel the storylines alongside the racier love triangles.

Whilst taking to the skies of Sao Paolo to avoid the hundred-mile traffic jams with mega-rich king of waste disposal Wilson Quintela, Michael learns that there are millions to be made from garbage.

Travelling south to Blumenau and Pomerode, Michael finds German speakers - including model Priscilla Falaster, who dreams of becoming the next Giselle Bundchen - and tries his hand pulling steins from a mobile bierkeller. Bavarian schulplatte dancers and chance encounters with spiritualists including Marcello Paes Leme challenge his views on what makes a typical Brazilian.

Leaving the beauty and serenity of the Pantanal, Michael comes to his journey's end at the magnificent Iguazu falls, where he concludes that Brazil has much to offer the world as it takes its place as a new superpower.

Brazil with Michael Palin Actors

Michael Palin(Presenter)



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