Petra Costa delves into the making of her sentimental take on the fall of democracy in Brazil.
Since the release of Petra Costa’s most recent documentary, The Edge of Democracy, on Netflix, theaters across the country have set up screenings to showcase her work. She has been touring to accompany her screenings and attend follow-up Q&A events. One such event took place at the Museum of Moving Image, where Costa was able to describe her take on the subject at focus in the documentary, as well as how the film came about being made.
In The Edge of Democracy Costa uses her and her family’s personal experience with Brazilian politics over the past half century to tell the story of democracy in Brazil. She intertwines her personal experience with the historical political events that have taken place within the country, with a particular focus on the rise and fall of the politicians like Presidents Lula and Dilma Rousseff of the Workers’ Party.
According to Costa, “We never knew it would head in this direction. We started a few years ago covering the impeachment of Dilma, and it ended up evolving into so much more”. With her family so heavily involved in the rise of democracy, Costa has always followed and believed in the system the Workers’ Party stood for. She felt obligated to make a film following the events surrounding the party, and how other political forces in Brazil seemingly looked to bring the nation back to an era of military dictatorship.
When she eventually decided the direction to take her film, Costa said it took months to get into contact with figures like Dilma Rousseff. “We had to sneak into an event that Dilma was attending, where I was able to leave her some of my films in the hope that she would reach out and allow me to interview her. It worked out and over time I was able to build a relationship with her and Lula, which allowed us to get so much footage”.
They were able to acquire footage of other political figures like future Brazilian president Bolsonaro during the Brazilian houses’ voting procedure regarding Dilma’s impeachment. Costa stated that, “Over time some politicians, like Michel Temer, were aware of our work and refused to be interviewed”. However, Bolsonaro’s love for the camera made him an easy subject to get ahold of and interview amidst all the chaos.
“After acquiring hundreds of hours of footage,” Costa said, “we condensed it down to a feature-length film. As I said in the film, I am as old as democracy, so it only made sense to intertwine my own personal experience with Brazilian politics alongside the events that took place over these last few years.”
Petra Costa’s film has now been available on Netflix since June of this year. It is thrilling and insightful documentary that delves into an aspect of Brazilian politics that the American audience may not be all too familiar with, yet makes for an important viewing experience.