Oliviero Toscani - United Colours of Benetton - Block on the Carpet - BBC2 documentary

Another documentary that I saw this year about photographers was the one called Block on the Carpet (BBC2) about the end of the affair between Toscani and United Colours of Benetton. I must say that my daughter wore Benetton in the 1970/80s and I did like the Toscani image for Benetton. He used his image of controversial advertising to shock the public. Because of this, the media was always writing about him and the fact that many people did not like his approach. After his break-up with Benetton, the shop at Oxford Circus completely changed its image as regards to advertising. So I was very curious to see what was this new image, this new look was going to be. I was very disappointed to see on the bus adverts and on the back wall of the shop the same old faces of young people. So it seems that the incredible 18-year relationship between Toscani and Benetton that had worked so well is irreplaceable at least for the moment. The end of this amazing relationship saw the end of the controversial series of photos about the death penalty in America.

Toscani is a son of the photojournalist who'd taken the famously macabre picture of Mussolini's dangling corpse. So Toscani grew up looking at this father's photos and wishing to emulate his father's shocking photography with images such as: an AIDS victim surrounded by his family, a new born baby covered in placenta, war graves, Mafia bodies covered in blood and Jesus jeans. (Jesus jeans was a close-up of a girl in denim-clad buttocks with the quotation from St John, ch. 14, v. 22, "He who loves me follows me". The Vatican was not amused. )As I was saying earlier, the advertisement featuring a man who murdered a number of people and was facing the death penalty, upset people so much that a revolt was started against him in America and Toscani lost his job. Benetton also lost his big magazine order for Sears. Today they still have not found a new image for Benetton. Toscani filmed dozens of prisoners on America's Death Row and used their haunting image to advertise the Benetton clothes. Emory and Donata Nelson's son was murdered and they objected to seeing huge posters of the man who kidnapped, beggared and murdered their son so they organised a nation-wide boycott of Benetton products, asking to stop this campaign and for Toscani's dismissal. In the documentary it was sad to see Toscani talking of his disappointment at how Benetton had let him down, "for them. . . the money first, profit came first". This is documentary that views the rise and fall of the Toscani- Benetton partnership, maybe the most successful in the history of advertising, until the Death Row campaign. I must say that I was commenting with some Brazilians that I was not in favour of Bush because his agreement with capital punishment. I was very shocked to hear from Brazilians that "the priest said that for some crimes it is necessary to have the death penalty and we are in favour of Bush because he's against abortion". I believe there is a problem with the Catholic Church in Brazil - a very big problem!Ethically you cannot kill someone!! The Pope forgave the man that tried to kill him, so how is it possible that the Catholics are agreeing with the Death Penalty yet campaigning against abortion. I really don't understand the Catholic Church in Brazil. I think they let down the very, very poor (the under-class) and, for me, they are guilty of not shouting loudly and campaigning about the huge corruption of the politicians in poor countries, particularly in Brazil, the biggest Catholic country in the world, with its publicity on sex and money. I would like to know what are the real values of this violent country of Brazil. The Catholic Church in Brazil seems to have lost its way in the real world. It has become a religion for the elite middleclass that gives their money to send to Rome in order to organise another Papal visit. While the poor are left abandoned to living in shanty towns (favellas), killing for a pair of designer trainers, selling drugs to the privileged people and shooting anyone they don't like; all while the politicians and the rich are getting richer. Where is the moral value there?The Catholic Church is failing and guilty of silence. They should campaign with the middleclass and the politicians for help to rescue these people from misery and close association with corruption.

Verinha Ottoni.


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