Brazilian Documentary First in History to be Nominated for an Oscar

Published on December 19, 2020

Produced and directed by Petra Costa, The Edge of Democracy is the first Brazilian documentary ever nominated to Oscar. It talks about Brazilian political crises and Dilma Rousseff’s impeachment in a bright resume.

The director’s honest narrative about beliefs and facts shows more than her life and is a main conductor of the documentary. It relates the parties and Brazil’s recent democratization story. 

Released by Netflix in 2019, the documentary approaches controversial subjects including Dilma’s impeachment process in 2016 and Lula’s prison in 2018. It reached the Trending Topics on Twitter last Monday with diverse perspectives. 

Check out the trailer!

Scandals and Politic Crises

In 2011, Dilma was the first woman ever elected to the presidency in Brazil. A complex subject on Dilma’s impeachment was caused by an accusation of irresponsibility because of accounting malpractice. The government admitted but declared it wasn’t an illegal move. 

Even if it’s not the first government to engage in accounting malpractice, they would delay the payment for a bank that was responsible for making a payment bridge between the government and the population. Some economists claimed it would be a serious mistake if the country was spending more money than it actually has.

In June 2016, the Federal Senate’s investigation declared it didn’t happen and she didn’t commit any crime. However, she got impeachment in August of same year.

From the same party as Dilma, Lula was president and founder of the Worker’s Party. In 2003, he started his two terms and later finished with an 87% approval rating. But, in 2018, he got arrested due to the accusation of having accepted a triplex from the constructor company Odebrecht as a bribe. After a year in a federal prison and denying involvement, the Supreme Court changed a law that ended up favoring Lula. In conclusion, he left prison in 2018 until his legal resources were over.

Petra as Storyteller

The story grows with Petra, since her first birthday.  She was born a year before the military dictatorship ended and grew up with every step of democracy in the country. The military took power in 1964 and Brazil had another Constitution only in 1988, based on democracy and human rights.

Petra’s parents also got arrested during the dictatorship, just like many other thousands of people that were against the government at the time. With this, she approaches resistance and representativity. 

Relating Brazilian politics with her own life during the documentary, it brings the story closer to whoever watches it. Her flashback choices are a really good idea and her off-speech explains to everyone what is actually happening in Brazilian politics.

However, a questionable point is her strong presence and point of view about the past and current scenario. I believe it is valid because she’s a documentary director fair and honest with her points that are based on facts and genuine worries about including matters that had a direct influence on her personal life. 

Following a really smart path, the documentary represents this polarization of ideas now in a timeline of politics and refers also to other family members as well. Petra’s grandfather was owner of a big construction company that grew during military times, so she shows how controversial the subject is.

Politics, Investigations and Results

A Supreme Court investigation on the Car Washing operation declared her grandfather’s company as guilty, becoming one of the biggest corruption schemes ever investigated in the country. She also tells about her family relation with Aécio Neves, who is currently a Senator but ran for the presidency in 2014 with Dilma. The same person that, after loosing elections, triggered and financed a movement (MBL) against the Worker’s Party (PT).

This movement also supported Lula’s arrest, the impeachment process and Bolsonaro’s presidential candidacy.

Elected in 2018, Jair Bolsonaro is currently the president of Brazil. With videos, it shows his hate speech and popularity since Dilma’s impeachment was voted for. He was a member of Congress at the time and voted in memory of the general that tortured Dilma during military dictatorship.

During an interview last Monday with Globo, a Brazilian communication company, he declared that he “wouldn’t waste his time watching it.” But why?

Why does Bolsonaro reject the documentary?

In the same interview on Monday, he said “the documentary is a fiction.” His comments also represent conservative ideas and hate for his “enemy,” in other words, the Worker’s Party. As a ex-militar, his speech is conservative and consists in “traditional family” and religion.

Bolsonaro also canceled LGBTQ+ movie, documentary, and TV Show productions last year that were approved and sponsored by the government. So, obviously, he wants to stop everything that shows a different opinion than his. According to Cambridge Dictionary, democracy means “the belief in freedom and equality between people” but it seems that this guide for the Federal Constitution is being threatened.

Elected at the end of 2018, Bolsonaro has risen his disapproval rating since then, according to Reuters. Particularly, I think the Brazilian documentary affects him in a personal way by exposing his problems to the world, especially now that the film is nominated for an Oscar.

Bolsonaro is more than a Trump supporter, having already said “I love you” while trying to shake hands. This wouldn’t even be a problem if this was only for his own self, just super awkward. In the end, however, the Brazilian documentary reflects Brazilian politics and a people that suffer from different unsolved problems than in the US. 

During an election year, it’s important to understand how American politics can influence the politics of other countries. Also, if a documentary like this can affect a president this badly without having watched it, it may contain some interesting ideas.

Here’s a video produced by The New York Times about his statements and controversial positions.

P.s.: Got interested? Glenn Greenwald, same journalist that talked with Snowden on NSA case, works now for The Intercept Brazil. His team made a sequence of reports that continues the story. The judge of Lula’s triplex case, he was indicated for Minister and had conversations released that gave tips to Public Prosecutors. So, if you already watched and want to understand even more about brazilian politics, here’s a link.

Luciana Gontijo is Staff Writer at Grit Daily. Based in Brazil, she focuses her writing on arts and entertainment. She was formerly with HuffPost Brazil.

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