Religion & Liberty Online

Review: The Edge of Democracy

The documentary The Edge of Democracy is a personal memoir about the recent political scenario in Brazil. Released on June 19 on Netflix, it is directed by Petra Costa — a Brazilian filmmaker and actress who has close connections with leftist politicians. The film portrays events such as the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff, the Operation Car Wash — that arrested the ex- president Lula da Silva — and the rise of the current President Jair Bolsonaro with a leftist perspective. It has Lula, Dilma and their Worker’s Party in the center of the plot, containing exclusive images of the two never seen before.

The Edge of Democracy is a response to the series The Mechanism, which is also available on Netflix and tells the story of Operation Car Wash. The Mechanism is a fiction series inspired by real facts and does not seek to make a realistic representation, as The Edge of Democracy does. However, The Edge of Democracy is released in a delicate moment of Brazilian politics, when private messages between judges and prosecutors of the Operation Car Wash were leaked by the “The Intercept” website on June 9. The American website accuses them of forming an illegal alliance to arrest the ex-President Lula. In this scenario, the documentary can gain a disproportionate acclamation by the left.

While the personal memoir directed by Costa portrays a few facts with a sense of reality, most of the plot is pure sensationalism. Indeed, Costa does what the left in Brazil is the best at: taking things out of context and spinning the facts.

As stated, the documentary is successful in some regards. It realistically shows the division of the country between two groups: political left and right. Costa correctly portrays a country that is completely polarized. Also, it realistically portrays Lula’s populism, and how he turned the poor against the elite during his time in office. One of the most emblematic scenes of the movie is the famous description made by the American ex-president Barack Obama about Lula: “The most popular politician on Earth” during a meeting between the two of them.

Lastly, The Edge of Democracy correctly represents Dilma Rousseff as Lula’s puppet. The documentary does not try to hide that Dilma is just chosen by Lula to succeed him in the presidency because she was willing to follow his ideology. It shows that the change in office does not represent a change in governability.

In spite of a few realistic representations, The Edge of Democracy is mainly a delusional film. The reason is: its goal is to portray Lula and Dilma as victims of an anti-democratic system. The documentary blames the fall of the Worker’s Party on its political alliances. It creates a conspiracy theory stating that the alliances made by the party eventually destroyed its power. The film tries to convince the viewer about three main things.

The first one is the illusional narrative of the left, where the impeachment process against the ex-president Dilma Rousseff was a coup carefully planned by Congress. It states that there was not enough evidence for impeachment, and that she was impeached because of political weaknesses and her attacks against the elite. The documentary does not clearly demonstrate that Dilma committed a crime called “fiscal maneuver” in Portuguese, which was analyzed and proved in Congress. Dilma’s impeachment was not a revolution –as the film tries to portray– but a lawful process following the Brazilian Constitution.

Secondly, The Edge of Democracy portrays the Car Wash Operation and the arrest of the ex-president Lula as an illegal process. Once again, the film creates the imaginary plot that there was not enough evidence to charge the ex-president, and that he was a victim of political persecution by the leaders of the operation. The documentary does not show that Car Wash was one of the major operations in Brazilian history, arresting multiple politicians and businessman. It tries to put Lula in the target of the plot. In reality, he was just one of the criminals sentenced by the operation. The Car Wash is not about Lula, as the documentary tries to convince the viewer. Instead, it was created to combat corruption in Latin America, reaching 11 countries in the continent.

Thirdly, the personal memoir makes a sensationalist representation of the rise of the current President Jair Bolsonaro. It portrays the president as the return of authoritarianism, connecting him to the Brazilian military dictatorship which lasted for 21 years (1964 – 1985). Indeed, Bolsonaro is a former military captain and has made statements praising the military dictatorship. However, the reality shows that he has no intention of restoring any kind of authoritarian regime. In fact, in six months of government Bolsonaro has implemented more classical liberal policies than fourteen years in which the Worker’s governed the country (2002-2016).

If you do not follow Brazilian politics, The Edge of Democracy is misleading. In fact, the documentary’s goal is to reach those who do not have an understanding about Brazilian politics and deceive them. The film is really a conspiracy theory, full of speculations that do not match reality. In this case, The Mechanism will be a better choice. Even though it is a fiction series, it does not spin the facts to make a point. If you follow Brazilian politics, The Edge of Democracy may strike you as bizarre, making you wonder how far the left can go in an attempt to reverse the political scenario.



Home page photo White House public domain. Lula meets Barack Obama.

Rafael Junqueira

Rafael Junqueira is a intern at the Acton Institute. A native of São Paulo, Brazil, he is a senior at Northwest Nazarene University (ID), where he studies Economics and Political Sciences.