Friday, March 04, 2005

Protest of the Week (Feb. 28)

I haven't seen too many protests lately in DC... probably the weather has been too cold. Grrrrr..... But here's an interesting article a friend sent me about a protest in Uruguay:


Uruguay Is AskingWhy the Oscars Snubbed Jorge Drexler
Antonio Banderas Got to SingHis Award-Winning Song; National Pride Is at Stake
By KATY MCLAUGHLIN, Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
March 2, 2005; Page A1

Yesterday, the tiny South American nation of Uruguay inaugurated its first socialist president ever. Shops were shuttered, and people flooded the streets of the capital by the thousands to celebrate.
And what was the main headline in Uruguay's biggest newspaper? The scandal at the Oscars.
On Sunday night, an Uruguayan singer won the Oscar for best song. It's the first Academy Award ever won by an Uruguayan, and the first for a Spanish-language song. The song, from the soundtrack of "The Motorcycle Diaries," the movie about Che Guevara, was written -- words and music -- by Jorge Drexler, a popular recording artist from Montevideo, who sings it in the movie.
But Mr. Drexler wasn't invited to sing his song on the Oscar broadcast. The show's producers, preferring to book stars, tapped the actor Antonio Banderas to sing it and Carlos Santana to accompany him on guitar. Mr. Banderas was born in Spain, Mr. Santana in Mexico.
Musician Carlos Santana (left) and actor Antonio Banderas perform 'Al Otro Lado del Rio' during the Academy Awards.


Standing along the inaugural parade route yesterday in Montevideo, Leticia Talmon, 22 years old, was watching motorcades roll past. But her mind was on Mr. Drexler. "They think everyone who speaks Spanish is the same," she said, while her four friends -- some wearing red, blue and white flags sewn by their mothers for the occasion -- muttered about the unfairness of it all.
"I laughed when I saw Antonio Banderas's flamenco version," said Ms. Talmon, referring to his gestures, which evoked a Spanish musical style. "That has nothing to do with the culture here."
Mr. Drexler, meanwhile, is being widely praised in Uruguay for an act of rebellion that was probably lost on many Oscar viewers. When he accepted his award, he didn't thank his mother, his producers or his agent. He sang a cappella, a couple of stanzas from his song, "Al Otro Lado del Río" ("The Other Side of The River.")
That simple act has become an emblem of national pride. The Uruguayan press has dubbed it "the next Maracanazo," a reference to a legendary soccer match, played more than a half-century ago, in which the underdog Uruguayan team turned around a losing game and snatched the World Cup from soccer giant Brazil, on Brazil's home field, Maracanã stadium.
Newspapers praised his a cappella performance as an "act of revenge" and a "bofetada sin mano," an expression that translates literally "a slap without a hand." On yesterday's inauguration day, El País, the country's largest-circulation newspaper, put out a six-page special section dedicated to Mr. Drexler. All the coverage is justified, says Henry Segura, the paper's performing-arts editor. It's "the most significant thing to happen in Uruguay in many years," he says, adding: "It was a triumph of dignity."
Jorge Drexler


Uruguay is a country of about 3.3 million people, roughly the size of Oklahoma. Its low-key culture pales next to sultry Argentina's to the south. Its tiny economy is constantly battered by the wild financial swings of Argentina and Brazil, Uruguay's neighbor to the north.
Given Uruguay's relative lack of presence on the world stage, the country celebrates even its smallest contributions to pop culture. "We got excited when they mentioned the word 'Uruguay' on 'The Simpsons,' " says Daniel Drexler, Jorge's brother, "even though they pronounced it 'you are gay' and made a joke out of it."
Yesterday in Uruguay, newspapers, the TV news, radio shows and many Uruguayans were united in two things: Joy at Mr. Drexler's triumph, and outrage at the slight. News shows on Monday night led with a detailed analysis of the controversy. Radio Futura, a call-in talk and music radio station, took more than 100 calls on Monday about the award, mostly from people expressing pride that Mr. Drexler had burst into song on the Oscar show.
The Uruguayan public has been following Mr. Drexler's struggle for the past two weeks, ever since he and the producers of "The Motorcycle Diaries," learned that he wasn't being invited to sing on the telecast. Mr. Drexler himself called Gil Cates, the Oscar broadcast producer, and pleaded with him to reconsider.
It isn't uncommon for the Oscar show to bypass the original singers of nominated songs. This year Beyonce sang three of the nominated songs, and she didn't sing in any of the nominated films. Still, Mr. Drexler was unhappy not to be included. He says that in the end he faced facts and gave Mr. Banderas his blessing. Mr. Banderas, he says, acted "like a gentleman."
Mr. Cates said he understands why Mr. Drexler and other Uruguayans are upset. "I would be upset, too," he says. He explained that he chose Mr. Banderas simply because he was a bigger star, and the Oscar broadcast, in addition to being an award show, is also a variety show -- and the attraction to viewers is big-name stars. "This is show business," said Mr. Cates.
Mr. Drexler says he is delighted that his saga has been embraced by his countrymen. "It was like we were down nine men to 11, and we won anyway," he said on Monday, using a soccer metaphor to describe the comeback role he played on Oscar night. "I wanted to sing that song, and I did, and that made me happy."

--Vanessa Nichols in Montevideo, Uruguay, contributed to this article.

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