There's a nostalgia about classic Brazilian TV series 'Escrava Isaura'

Xu Wei
Decades after it was introduced to Chinese viewers, the series is still remembered with great affection and for the role it played in cementing relations between the two countries.
Xu Wei
There's a nostalgia about classic Brazilian TV series 'Escrava Isaura'

Decades passing, the time-honored Brazilian TV series "Escrava Isaura" is still memorized and cherished by many Chinese people.

In August 1974, China and Brazil established diplomatic relations, which significantly boosted exchanges and cooperation across various fields. One notable example of this cultural exchange is the classic Brazilian TV series "Escrava Isaura." Premiering in 1976, the series was introduced to Chinese audiences by Beijing Television Station in 1984.

Directed by Milton Gonçalves and Herval Rossano, "Escrava Isaura" remains fondly remembered and cherished by many Chinese people. The enduring popularity of this series highlights the rich and vibrant cultural exchange activities between China and Brazil over the decades.

Set against the backdrop of the Brazilian Empire, the 100-episode series is based on 19th-century writer Bernardo Guimarães' novel of the same name. Starring Lucélia Santos, Rubens de Falco and Gilberto Martinho, it centers on the struggles of the young white-skinned slave Isaura against the obsession of a malicious slave owner and her courage and endeavor to pursue freedom and love.

The series not only showcases an important period in Brazilian history, but also explores themes of universal concern, such as freedom, love, justice, and humanity. It provides an insight into the cruelty and injustice of slavery while it also reflects the goodness, evil, and complexity of human nature.

There's a nostalgia about classic Brazilian TV series 'Escrava Isaura'

Milton Gonçalves, one of the series' directors.

There's a nostalgia about classic Brazilian TV series 'Escrava Isaura'

Herval Rossano, one of the series' directors.

There's a nostalgia about classic Brazilian TV series 'Escrava Isaura'

The series attracted widespread attention when it was aired in China in the 1980s.

The series "Escrava Isaura" has been broadcast in over 80 countries. When it aired in China about 40 years ago, it attracted widespread attention and discussion, becoming a classic Brazilian TV production cherished by Chinese audiences.

Sophie Wang, a film and TV fan, recalled that when she watched the series during her middle school days, she was captivated by its dramatic plot twists, romance, and intricate interpersonal relationships. "There weren't many other foreign TV dramas at that time," said Wang. "The leading actress received huge popularity among Chinese audiences."

Wang Lifang, a retired worker in her 60s, noted the impressive 100-episode length of the series, adding that it was a sensation in China during the 1980s.

On China's film and TV review website Douban, many Chinese people still express nostalgia for the drama, recognizing its historical significance and social influence. A user named "Ashes of Roses" mentioned that Isaura's hairstyle and dresses were quite popular in mainland China at that time.

Many people fondly remember their childhood days, sitting by black-and-white TV sets with their parents, anxiously following Isaura's fate. Neighbors often gathered to discuss the drama, creating a shared cultural experience.

The main actors won the love and respect of viewers with their superb acting skills. Over time, the actors experienced their own ups and downs and changes in life. Some continued to develop their careers in the entertainment industry, while others chose different paths.

There's a nostalgia about classic Brazilian TV series 'Escrava Isaura'

A poster advertises "Escrava Isaura."

There's a nostalgia about classic Brazilian TV series 'Escrava Isaura'

Brazilian actress Lucélia Santos rose to international fame in "Escrava Isaura."

There's a nostalgia about classic Brazilian TV series 'Escrava Isaura'

Lucélia Santos still active in the entertainment industry. In recent years, she has produced documentaries about Chinese culture.

Lucélia Santos, who plays Isaura, is a versatile Brazilian actress, director and producer. Ever since she rose to international stardom in "Escrava Isaura," she has starred in many popular TV dramas and movies, such as "Engraçadinha" (1981), "Carmem" (1987) and "Luz del Fuego" (1982).

Owing to her vivid portrayal of the strong-willed slave girl, in 1985, Santos became the first actress to receive the Golden Eagle Award for Best Foreign Actress in China. Her trip to the awards ceremony was greeted warmly by Chinese audiences.

The popularity of the TV series, in her eyes, helped to spread Brazilian culture in China. She sees it as an important step in cultural exchanges between the two countries.

Over the passing decades, Santos has visited China more than 20 times and has been engaged in promoting cultural understanding between Brazil and China. In 2009, "Destino," a collaboration with Chinese film professionals, was screened at the Shanghai International Film Festival. It was the first film co-produced by China and Brazil.

The 67-year-old actress is still active in the entertainment industry and has produced a number of documentaries on Chinese culture.

There's a nostalgia about classic Brazilian TV series 'Escrava Isaura'

Rubens de Falco, who plays Isaura's master in the series, impressed Chinese audiences with his acting.

There's a nostalgia about classic Brazilian TV series 'Escrava Isaura'

"Escrava Isaura" is one of Rubens de Falco's representative works.

Veteran actor Rubens de Falco, who plays Leôncio, Isaura's master, also impressed Chinese audiences with his acting. In his career, Falco starred in a number of TV dramas, movies, and stage plays.

"Escrava Isaura" is considered one of his representative works, making the role he interprets one of the most familiar and disliked villain characters to Chinese audiences.

Falco appeared in two versions of "Escrava Isaura." In the 2004 version, he guest-appeared as Comendador Almeida, Leôncio's father.

However, he has been unable to act due to a stroke since May, 2006. In 2008, the actor died of heart disease at the age of 76.

There's a nostalgia about classic Brazilian TV series 'Escrava Isaura'

Gilberto Martinho is an experienced actor and director.

There's a nostalgia about classic Brazilian TV series 'Escrava Isaura'

Gilberto Martinho died in 2001 at the age of 78.

Gilberto Martinho, who stunned viewers with the role of Tobias in the series is also an experienced and versatile actor and director. He plays a wealthy and upright farmer who falls in love with Isaura and competes with Leôncio for her freedom and love.

Martinho's credits include "Roda de Fogo" (1986), "Pecado Capital" (1975) and "Cabocla" (1979). In 2001 he died of pneumonia at the age of 78.

There's a nostalgia about classic Brazilian TV series 'Escrava Isaura'

Actress Norma Blum's acting in the series also stunned Chinese audiences.

There's a nostalgia about classic Brazilian TV series 'Escrava Isaura'

Norma Blum's acting career spans over 60 years.

Actress Norma Blum plays the role of Malvina, Leôncio's mother. The kind noblewoman who treats Isaura like her daughter and wants to give her freedom and happiness. To Chinese audiences, it is a respected and appreciated supporting role.

In an acting career that spans over 60 years, Blum has starred in many TV series, films and stage plays, such as "Elas por Elas" (1982), "Bambolê" (1987) and "Celebridade" (2003).

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