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Predrag Dragosavac, whose radio show ‘Brazilska čorba’ ran from 2006 to 2011 – and who is now lecturing about Brazil while preparing a book - is astonished how little Serbs know of this huge country.
“I thought Brazil was only carnivals, dance and music before I heard your lecture,” an elderly lady tells Dragosavac, as she stops him on the street.
Predrag Dragosavac, 40, a journalist from Belgrade, is fast gaining prominence on the subject after his lectures at the Kolarac and Dom kulture Studentski grad drew over a hundred listeners a time.
“The sudden interest in Brazil comes party from the fact that Brazil is the new wonder of global economy,” he says. “It grew incredibly fast from relative obscurity to being the sixth biggest economy in the world.”
In 2006, when there were only hints of Brazil’s coming rise, Dragosavac and his Brazilian friend, Thiago Silman, started a talk show on Beograd 202 state radio called Brazilska corba, literally Brazilian stew.
It ran for five years every Saturday at noon and Dragosavac believes that they used the 60-minute slot well.
“What we did combined pleasure and work. We started off slowly, since the public had virtually no in-depth knowledge of Brazil,” he recalls.
“The show was a bit of fresh air for Serbian radio for a couple of reasons,” he says.
“First, the vibes were optimistic and you could enjoy them, without knowing what the song was about. Secondly, it was a joyful contrast to the overly serious mood of the national radio shows.
“Perhaps most importantly, this was the first international radio product in Serbia since the break-up of Yugoslavia, as the presenters spoke a mixture of Serbian and English and the music was all Brazilian.”
After Silman left, Dragosavac was joined by Andre de Lima and the pair of them soon launched another radio show, Globalno selo (Global Village), on the same radio station.
It ran on Sundays and featured guests from all over the world, mainly Belgraders who lived abroad or foreigners who had moved to Belgrade.
Dragosavac grew to love Brazil from a distance through its music and culture, and in 2011 he decided to spend time in Brazil and get to know the country from up close.
“My relatives were part of the Yugoslav emigration to Brazil,” Dragosavac says, explaining that in the early 20th century the first poverty-driven wave of Yugoslavs sailed toward Brazilian town of Santos.
Two generations later those people’s grandchildren accepted relatives who fled from the Yugoslav conflict of the 1990s.
“I stayed mostly in middle-class homes and had the opportunity to explore the cities of Campinas and Sao Paulo in some depth,” he says.
“Some 15 years ago Brazil was a country of two parallel societies with 1 per cent having more money than the 50 per cent of the so-called middle class.
“Brazil is still a country of two societies but its economic expansion now is being felt by all social classes,” he says.
While in Brazil, Dragosavac published articles on world's fifth largest country in Serbian dailies and magazines.
“After going to Brazil I realised how little many people here know of this great country,” he says.
What Dragosavac also finds surprising is the fact that knowledge of Latin America in general is incredibly low in Serbia.
“Lecturing in Belgrade and around Serbia I feel like Pedro Cabral who discovered Brazil,” he says.
He notes that during the past two decades there were total of three Brazilian films at FEST, Serbia's largest film festival.
There were many films about Brazil at various documentary film festivals in Belgrade - but none was made by a Brazilian.
“Brazilian cinema is gaining strength since oil company Petroras decided to invest in local film-makers,” he notes.
Dragosavac, who would like to expand his lectures to other countries in Southeast Europe, says that apart from the book, he would like to set up a festival of Brazilian films in Belgrade as well as different events involving Brazilian music.
He believes Belgrade would be a good host for a conference of intellectuals and culture workers from Latin America.
“Brazil today has stronger diplomatic representation in the countries of former Yugoslavia than it did in the so-called ‘Golden Age’ of Yugoslav-Brazil relations in the 1960s and 1970s, with embassies in Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.“
Dragosavac says this puts Brazil in a good position to strengthen its position in the region. He believes, however, that Brazil is not making the full use of this.
One such example is the visa situation between Serbia and Brazil. “Two years ago the countries signed a visa-abolition agreement, which should have enabled Serbian citizens to enter Brazil without a visa,” he recalls.
“Serbia has ratified the agreement - but two years on, Brazil still hasn't.”
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