Brazilian Hollywood: the past & future of telenovelas.

 
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After years of being the premier TV genre in Latin America, the popularity of telenovelas has spread around the globe. Latin telenovelas are selling like hotcakes, especially to Eastern European broadcasters, while local productions are popping up in almost every territory. VideaAge recently caught up with telenovela "guru" Mauro Alencar, to discuss his book, the history of the novela in his native Brazil and why the genre is rising to worldwide prominence.

Now in its second edition, Alencar's book A Hollywood Brasilera: Panorama da Telenovela no Brasil, which translates as Brazilian Hollywood--A View of the Telenovela in Brazil (2002, Editora Senac Rio, 175 pages), is unfortunately, for now, only available in Portuguese. When it is finally translated, it will no doubt prove to be a useful educational tool for both fans and producers around the globe.

Much like the series it describes, Brazilian Hollywood is glossy and attractive. Lush Technicolor photographs of screen shots and production stills accompany the text, and, as a bonus, a CD of 18 musical themes from popular telenovelas is included. The book spans the evolution of the burgeoning genre, beginning with its roots in 19th century "feuilleton" (a term that refers to Spanish, French and Brazilian literature).

As the book reports, as early as the 1930s, the first serialized novelas hit the airwaves in Miami, Florida in the form of "radionovelas" (other accounts give Cuba as radionovelas' birthplace). They could be distinguished from North American soap operas because they reached a definitive conclusion, while their North American cousins continued for years without an end in sight. Iconic themes of romance, betrayal, and intrigue set them apart from existing soaps and they were instantly popular with Miami's neighbors to the south, the countries of South and Central America.

Like most of Latin America, Brazil was immediately smitten with telenovelas. But until the 1960s, Brazilian programs largely imitated Mexican and Argentinean shows, sometimes even reusing scripts from these countries. It was not until the early '70s that the country's soaps began to develop an identity of their own. By examining individual programs and their impact on the genre, Alencar takes us through this evolution to the present-day industry boom that has, as the book's title suggests, created a version of Hollywood completely devoted to telenovelas.

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In addition to covering history, the...

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