The Edge of Democracy

Another film which might have slipped through the cracks while you were trying to watch all the Oscar nominated films or the best of the year 2019. The Edge of Democracy is available on Netflix. It is a documentary directed by Petra Costa (Olma & the Seagull, Elena) which is about documenting the intertwining of two Brazilian presidencies.

Brazil has been in the news a lot of late. Mostly for bad reasons. One was the huge fires which were destroying the vital rainforests there and the leadership in the country seemed uninspired (to say the least) to do what it took to stop it. Then there is the controversial President Jair Bolsonaro. The former military man has been a vocal opponent of same sex marriage, affirmative action, homosexuality, and abortion. Polarizing and controversial, he is another in a seemingly long line of far right adherants who have risen to power of late.

This very the personal is political documentary looks at the presidencies of Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff. Director Petra Costa is Brazilian and lived through these tumultuous times for the large country. As a filmmaker she recognized the importance of what was going on, so decided to document what went on.

As such, we get a rare look at, from the ground floor, what Brazil and Brazilians went through during this time in their history. Films like this are vital. Told by the people involved. A time capsule in a country’s history. Documented not by those in power (which is how we usually get history), but by the people.

Political scandals plagued Brazil during the years which da Silva and Rousseff were President – the years of 2003 until the impeachment of Rousseff in 2016. The result was in 2014 that Brazil was on the verge of being torn apart. As they were in the midst of economic crisis partially as a result of the two presidencies and abuse of power which occured. The people, understandably, wanted change. The change that took place was a slide back into oppression. A type of system which they had previously fought to get out from under.

The end result of these two polarizing presidencies is a country which seems to be split. Split about what had happened and where they should be going. No matter what you think of The Edge of Democracy as a film or something which attempted to document a slice of Brazilian history, you can see and feel the passion of the director Petra Costa. The opponents of the film (largely followers of present President Bolsonaro) claim it is a biased and sometimes fictional work. Most people praise it as a brave attempt to chronicle a betrayal of the people of Brazil and presidential/political abuse. We get to see a country teetering on the edge of the end of democracy. A country which seemed doomed to fall into a dictatorship. Another modern example of a people wanting something different and thinking that the Right could give them that.

Costa is a trained journalist who happens to make films. Here she uses facts, interviews and historical news clips in order to construct the story she wants to tell. Yes, her politics are visible. She makes no effort to hide that. In the end, what we have here is a warning to others. Other countries around the world looking for change. A warning that a wolf in sheep’s clothing is what they might be turning to.

You can watch this documentary on Netflix.