[Marxism] Uruguay Is Asking Why the Oscars Snubbed Jorge Drexler

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Wed Mar 2 03:14:38 MST 2005

On Sunday Uruguay's first left-progressive government was being
inagurated, and the Cuban government recognized, so that all
of Latin America except for El Salvador has granted diplomatic
recognition to revolutionary Cuba. The people of that country
were given a blunt lesson as to who's boss in the privately-
owned and operated cultural field. They watched as the Academy 
of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences snubbed the singer-composer
of the first Spanish song ever to win the Oscar, replacing him 
with the more familiar names for the few moments of the world-
televised ceremony. The show's producer, Gil Cates, told the
Wall Street Journal "This is show business", and the emphasis
was on "business". The Uruguayan took it like the man of class
he obviously is, and got to sing a few bars of the song anyway
during his acceptance speech. It's yet another moment in the
conciousness-raising process which we are observing which is
called continental integration. 

The Cuban media has had a raft of articles on Jorge Drexler
in recent days since it was announced that his song in the
film MOTORCYCLE DIARIES, the beautiful film about Ernesto
Guevara as a young man learning about the life of the poor
people of Latin America during a continent-wide odyssey as a
young medical student, prior to his evolution into the Che
we later came to know as a leader of the Cuban Revolution.

The Academy tries hard to avoid political commentaries by its
nominees, such as those made by Michael Moore in the past, but
nevertheless it seems, a spectre is haunting them...

Viva Jorge Drexler! Viva Che!

Walter Lippmann, CubaNews

March 2, 2005
Uruguay Is Asking
Why the Oscars
Snubbed Jorge Drexler
Antonio Banderas Got to Sing
His Award-Winning Song;
National Pride Is at Stake

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.

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

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."

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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