Friday, April 04, 2008
Eimar Franco, continued
If my feeble memory proves correct, I took this shot of Fordlândia in 2000. I was traveling with an English film-making crew that was producing a documentary for History Channel on Henry Ford in the Amazon. As the riverboat plowed through the thick early morning fog, I remembered Eimar Franco's account of crossing the Tapajós River from Urucurituba to get to Fordlândia when he was young boy. In his book he described how one of his relatives actually used a compass to keep from getting lost. I can certainly understand the need, given zero visibility and a fast moving river. I'm fairly sure that this particular film crew didn't get over to Urucurituba to visit the "Casa Grande", which was home and headquarters for the Franco family for many decades. But I remember taking another film crew to Fordlândia in the late 1980s -1990s and they insisted on crossing the river to visit the old homestead. As I best remember it, the director was from Sweden and he had an eye for film sets. Even on the other side of the Tapajós River he recognized Urucurituba as film maker's dream. At that time, the only Franco living there was Luiz (Eimar's uncle), who must have been in his late 80s or early 90s. One of his hired hands received us at the makeshift dock only to inform us that Luiz was out looking for some lost cows. After a bit, the old man showed up with a bunch of nails in one hand and a hammer in the other. He was cursing a bluestreak about the missing cows and in momentary madness said something about "selling this damned place". Well, that was the perfect opening for the film-maker, who had already fallen in love with Urucurituba and the Casa Grande. "Steve, ask him how much he wants for the place", he said. I guess Luiz Franco was still infuriated enough that he replied, "Fifty-thousand dollars". "It's a deal", said the producer, as he pulled a checkbook from his pack. Well, to make a long story short, the transaction never took place because Sr. Luiz remembered that he needed to consult with his son, Diogo, an agronomist, who lived in Belém. He was on the verge of retiring and had plans to do so at the family homestead in Urucurituba, which turned out to be the case. Nevertheless, our film producer was serious about buying the place. After his return to Sweden, or wherever he was from, he communicated with me several times asking me to close the deal. I've not been back to Fordlândia recently, but Eimar tells me that Sr. Luiz has passed on and that Diogo is holding down the fort by himself. I can't imagine one person living in that huge vintage country house with its many large rooms, corridors and wraparound porches. The land area, as reported by Eimar in his book, O Tapajós Que Eu Vi (Memòrias) is 4,100 hectares!