Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.5.
Brazil, 2019. Busca Vida Filmes. Screenplay by Petra Costa, co-writers Carol Pires, David Barker, Moara Passoni. Cinematography by João Atala, Ricardo Stuckert. Produced by Shane Boris, Petra Costa, Joanna Natasegara, Tiago Pavan. Music by Vitor Araújo, Rodrigo Leao, Gilberto Monte, Lucas Santtana. Film Editing by João Atala, David Barker, Tina Baz, Jordana Berg, Joaquim Castro, Affonso Goncalves, Eduardo Gripa, Karen Harley, Bruno Jorge, Felipe Lacerda, Idê Lacreta, Bruno Lasevicius, Dellani Lima, Virginia Primo, Isabelle Rathery. Academy Awards 2019. Gotham Awards 2019.
Director Petra Costa weaves her own biographical timeline into this fascinating exploration of the last thirty-odd years of Brazil’s political history, having been born around the time that a lengthy dictatorship ended and the country began conducting democratic elections. When she was still a child, the popularity of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, commonly known as “Lula”, was on the rise, a union leader and hero to the working class who would eventually be voted in as president of the country in 2003. His successor, Dilma Rousseff, was elected with as much hopeful enthusiasm but saw her term come to an abrupt end with impeachment hearings brought her way, while Lula was charged and eventually jailed for corruption; their fall from grace coincided with the same disturbing rise in popularity of right-wing nationalism that has become de rigeur in North America and Europe in the second decade of the twenty-first century. Costa keeps the pace at a steady but terrifying rhythm that reveals something shocking at every turn, her languid voice-over narration accompanying the political maneuvers that reveal her to have little hope for a permanent improvement in the cyclical nature of her country’s trends: democracy only works when the rich are afraid, she quotes a Greek philosopher, and in a country where most industries are run by old and powerful families, that fear is not likely to last long. Costa includes her own life experience (as the daughter of revolutionaries who lived in hiding during the dictatorship) with a great deal of restraint, wisely understanding that there is enough drama in the political timeline, but even while avoiding being overly indulgent about her own position in the narrative, she puts across enough personal information to give the viewer a sense of powerful intimacy with her as its guide.