Michael Palin has travelled the world for the past 25 years, earning him a reputation as the man who's been everywhere. But there's one big gap in his passport - Brazil. The fifth largest country on Earth, with an abundance of resources and a melting pot of peoples, it's a nation that's risen almost out of nowhere to become a 21st Century superpower and is next in line to host both the World Cup and Olympic Games. Palin sets off to discover a country whose time has come. With stunning images from photographer Basil Pao, Palin talks about his love of travelling, highlights from his time in Brazil and how it made him aware of why he travels.
Michael starts in the north east of Brazil where Europeans first settled and grew rich on slave labour. In Sao Luis, European and African religious rituals come together in typically Brazilian celebrations. Michael also visits one of the region's massive beaches before heading to the monster sand-dunes of the Lencois Maranhenses National Park. In Recife, he takes a look around the city’s striking street art and sculptures, and in Olinda, he gets roped onto the dance floor in a country where everybody dances. In Salvador, his fortune is read by a priest who practises the local religion of Candomble.
The Python star continues his first visit to Brazil by travelling by river from the northern border with Venezuela to the capital of Brasilia. Along the way he visits indigenous tribe the Yanomami, learning about the threat to their hunter-gatherer way of life, before watching a rehearsal by the Amazon Philharmonic Orchestra and searching for the remains of Henry Ford's unsuccessful attempt to build a vast rubber plantation in the middle of the rainforest. In Belem, music producer Priscilla explains why Amazonian women are such powerful forces, then he moves southwards, meeting rock star and political activist Dinho Ouro Preto, who believes that despite its social and environmental problems, the country is on the brink of becoming a superpower.
In the third part of his Brazilian odyssey, Michael Palin visits the source of Brazil's great mineral wealth and then travels to one of the world's greatest cities to see how this new-found wealth is being spent, changing the lives of millions of its inhabitants. Michael starts this leg of the journey in the mineral-rich state of Minas Gerais - General Mines. He visits an old gold mine once owned by the British, before going to see a vast opencast iron ore mine that is such a feature of the Minas landscape. Iron ore deposits that are fuelling Brazil's economic miracle but there is always an environmental price to pay, and Michael meets some ordinary Brazilians who are dedicated to preserving the natural beauty of the state. After Minas it's down to Rio de Janeiro, host to the next Olympics and World Cup. Rio has always had a reputation as a party town but also has suffered from terrible violence, with heavily armed drug gangs controlling the notorious shanty towns or favelas that make up a large part of the city. Now, the authorities have decided to spend some of Brazil's new money on healing the rift between the favelas and the rest of the city. The policy of 'pacification' aims to drive the drug gangs out and fund new infrastructure and social programmes to make the favelas truly part of the city. Michael visits what used to be some of the most violent places on Earth to see how lives have been transformed by pacification. Michael's time in Rio isn't all about what is happening in the favelas. He also finds time to visit some of Rio's best-known locations, learns how to celebrate a goal like a Brazilian radio commentator, and books a room in one of the city's infamous 'love hotels'!
In the final episode of his travels through Brazil, Michael Palin finds many surprises as he encounters the rich diversity of the more European and Asian cultures that have created a new melting pot in the deep south of Brazil. In the picture-perfect town of Parati, set amidst the Mata Atlantica, he meets up with Prince Joao de Braganza, heir to the defunct throne of Brazil. The prince argues that the arrival of the Portuguese court in Brazil, who escaped from Napoleon's occupation, did much to establish the institutions that have enabled Brazil's economy to flourish. Michael visits Embraer, one of the recent high-tech success stories and now the world's third-largest commercial aircraft manufacturer, and becomes part of the painting team there. He joins Carolina Ferraz, star of a galaxy of telenovellas, the immensely popular Brazilian soap operas, on the backlot of her most recent TV success, where issues of poverty fuel the storylines alongside the racier love triangles. Michael is then taken by her to the home of rap star, philospher and poet Criolo in the slums of Sao Paolo. He thinks the notion of social equality is distant dream for most Brazilians. Ex-president Fernando Henrique Cardoso gives a more optimistic vision. Whilst taking to the skies of Sao Paolo to avoid the hundred-mile traffic jams with mega-rich king of waste disposal Wilson Quintela, Michael learns that there are millions to be made from garbage. Travelling south to Blumenau and Pomerode, Michael finds German speakers - including model Priscilla Falaster, who dreams of becoming the next Giselle Bundchen - and tries his hand pulling steins from a mobile bierkeller. Bavarian schulplatte dancers and chance encounters with spiritualists including Marcello Paes Leme challenge his views on what makes a typical Brazilian. In the vast wetlands of the Pantanal, Michael catches a piranha, which is instantly turned into sushi. He helps the cowboys treat a calf attacked by a jaguar, and is treated to close encounters of the wildlife in the company of cowgirl Polliana Rondon. Leaving the beauty and serenity of the Pantanal, Michael comes to his journey's end at the magnificent Iguazu falls, where he concludes that Brazil has much to offer the world as it takes its place as a new superpower.