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Taking away art & leisure for the young & poor

April 1, 2009

It’s not every day you witness a protest take over an entire movie theater. Last week I was walking past the Arteplex cinema in Botafogo when I saw a huge group of (mostly high school) students staging an occupation of the building. There were the usual PTSU flags that seem to be ubiquitous in public manifestations in Brazilian cities, but it still wasn’t clear what was going on. A young, earnest high school student explained that student groups were protesting the new legislation calling for a reduction in ‘meia-entrada.’ Meia-entrada allows students to gain half-price admission to films, theaters, concerts, football stadiums, etc. Cultural events do not come cheap here, so student entry makes a sizeable difference in price (e.g. R$200 for Radiohead tickets are R$100 at meia-entrada; R$50 Jorge Ben Jor tickets are R$25, and so on). Scrupulous ID-checking is well-enforced at most venues, which is what makes the 4571/2008 bill (sponsored by Senator Eduardo Azeredo of Minas Gerais) even more obnoxious. The attempt to reduce to 40% the total percentage of ticket sales that can be released to students is uninhibitedly lucrative. And stupid. 

The student I talked to said the passage of the bill was even more upsetting in the face of economic crisis, when students not able to afford full-priced tickets would cut back on leisure (and, I added, educational) activities. The culture industry in Latin America already complains about low-attendance rates for venues like museums, so Senator Azeredo’s bill makes even less sense in that context. 

The students timed the protest to coincide with Dia de Luta dos Estudantes, or Students’ Rights Day. On 28 March, 1968, 18-year old high school student Edson Luís was killed by police at the Calabouço restaurant in Rio de Janeiro (where students were protesting an increase in the price of food). He was the first student killed during the military dictatorship, and his killing is often marked as the beginning of the incendiary resistance to the dictatorship. The photo shows students carrying Edson’s shoes in reverence.  

The cinema was showing Soderbergh’s ‘Che’ that day.

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