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Travel

A Brazilian In... Paris & Melbourne

In São Paulo in 1978. My dad, who’s a British native, used to work in a slaughterhouse. He’s part of the dynasty that imported zebus into Brazil.

by JULIEN BÉCOURT, BRIONY WRIGHT
May 2 2009, 12:00am





 


Philip Griffiths
Vice: Where were you born?

Philip:
In São Paulo in 1978. My dad, who’s a British native, used to work in a slaughterhouse. He’s part of the dynasty that imported zebus into Brazil. My parents spent most of their life in Barretos, a village north of São Paulo and the mecca of the rodeo in Brazil. I went to school there until my father moved to France to redesign the production lines of a slaughterhouse.

What did you think about France before you moved here?

My sister and I had no idea where France was located. We figured it was a distant, snow-covered country. We settled in the French countryside in Poitou-Charentes, a shithole with 2,500 inhabitants. My sister and I were treated as if we were a strange and exotic animal species. We learned French pretty quickly from children’s books, and our first sentences were pure nonsense: “Go get the sheep, which is under the table!” It just made everyone in the class laugh. Later I went to a boys-only Catholic boarding school in Vendée. There were no girls. That sucked.

When did you settle in Paris?

Only five years ago. My trajectory was the same as the average French country boy’s. After high school, I spent a year on sabbatical. My parents had already moved back to Brazil with my sisters, and I had to get by without any financial help. I had a rock band and decided to move to Bordeaux. When I arrived there, it was like a true discovery of the world—drugs and total open-mindedness.

How do you like the city?

Paris is like a gigantic playground for me. I love to go from one network to another, from the hippest party to the scummiest squat. I’ve noticed that French people usually keep the same clothes on the whole day. They don’t even bother to stop at home to take a shower. In Brazil, that’s inconceivable—whatever your social class is, you arrange yourself before going out. Brazilian chicks are dead careful about their outfits, even in the poorest favela.

What about French girls?

They’re great! In comparison, Brazil is way more complicated. Chicks are pretty hot, but it’s hard to get them sometimes. The problem is that trashy TV brainwashes them and they act like they’re in a telenovela. In France, it’s way simpler. When a girl is staring at you, it means she wants you. It’s quite direct. But still, there are levels.

Such as?

The most stuck-up madam actually enjoys being treated rudely. The typical Parisian bourgeoisie gets horny as soon as you blow her off. She’s starting to think, “At last, a real guy with guts! Not like all those gentle faggots who are so nice to me and carry my bag and are so polite to my parents.” They’re looking for something wilder. They love bad boys—scars, tattoos, and all that shit. They want to have an experience like getting fucked in a dirty subway station or in a toilet stall on a train.

INTERVIEW BY JULIEN BÉCOURT
PHOTO BY EMMANUEL LE CERF



 


Ana Vaz
Vice: Holá, Ana. Which part of Brazil are you from?

Ana:
I’m from Brasília, which is the capital of Brazil and sits right in the center of the country. It officially replaced Rio de Janeiro as the capital in 1960 after taking four years to build.

What was it like there?

Brasília is a strange place to live because it wasn’t developed organically like most cities. The whole place was meticulously planned out in numbered superblocks, with specific districts for things like banking and schooling. And it was carefully built in the shape of an airplane.

Yeah, we have an interview in this issue with Oscar Niemeyer, the architect who designed it, so we know all about that.

There’s also a mystical side to Brasília—a kind of folklore based on religious texts from a priest called Dom Bosco who, during colonization, founded the land of Brasília. According to his predictions and measurements, it’s some kind of sacred land that has connections with higher spiritual powers.

And how did Rio feel about being stripped of its capital status?

That’s difficult to say, but there was a sense that Brasília offered a new beginning for the country. In 1955, Juscelino Kubitschek de Oliveira became one of the first democratically elected presidents of Brazil. He was a revolutionary leader whose slogan was “Fifty years of progress in five,” and his pivotal project was to change the capital from Rio to Brasília.

So it was presented as some sort of modern utopia?

Yes, it was established as a promising place of progress and opportunity. It encouraged the idea that we were able to be as modern and radical as any other country and was a catalyst for social, political, and cultural revolutions. Many people see it as a golden era of Brazilian culture when people became more politically aware and things like bossa nova became popular. It was also a tragic time in a lot of ways, as many students were killed as a result of the military rule.

So what inspired you to leave Brasília for Australia?

For me, it was curiosity and a desire for independence and freedom.

What do you miss most about Brazil?

It’d have to be a sense of warmth and sincerity. Anglo cultures rely on a certain level of irony for their daily relationships, but Latin cultures are more sincere. They are also truly generous. Even the poorest people will share the last of their food with you. There’s not the same sense of private property like there is in Australia.

Are there any drugs over there that we don’t get here?

No. Brazil is all about the cocaine. The favelas sustain the extreme power they have because everyone’s consuming it. The one thing that is different is the price—it’s sooo much cheaper there.

INTERVIEW BY BRIONY WRIGHT
PHOTO BY STEPHANIE BAILLY
 
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