Starring: Dilma Rousseff, Lula, Michel Temer
Director: Petra Costa
Running Time: 121 mins
The Edge Of Democracy (Democracia em Vertigem) is a Brazilian documentary about the political chaos that erupted in the late 2010s as public opinion swung violently against successive governments.
Taking on enormous political topics from a complex and effectively ongoing crisis, The Edge Of Democracy is an immensely ambitious documentary that delivers riveting and powerful analysis spectacularly.
It’s not a neutral, fully balanced assessment of Brazilian politics, but nor does it aim to be, instead offering up a scathing indictment on the country’s justice system, as well as wider issues surrounding the power of political elites, the oligarchy and the old establishment.
Now, given that this film details the development of events as recent as the last five years (all with ongoing parallels in many other countries), you’re almost certain to have your own opinions, views and feelings on the topics it tackles. However, the great thing about The Edge Of Democracy is that, while it touches on controversial topics, it approaches them with a level-headed and well-evidenced ideology.
As a result, you can put your own political convictions to the side and engage entirely with what this film has to say. The documentary is not a political rant, but a perspective on current events, and that’s something so hard to achieve in the increasingly polarised world we live in.
Packing a huge amount of information into just two hours, The Edge Of Democracy brilliantly details the chaotic series of events in Brazilian politics through the second half of the 2010s, with effective context and background from beforehand coming in early on as a helping hand.
Again, the events mirror political upheavals and controversies from all around the world in the same time period, but this documentary offers an insightful, penetrating and deeply engrossing assessment of the major flaws of Brazil’s own systems of justice and governance.
Looking principally at the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff and the trial of Lula, both once-beloved Presidents of Brazil, the film offers up a riveting account of how the justice system is stacked in the favour of those at its head, rather than serving as the neutral and objective body it should be.
That links into the film’s assessment of the country’s traditional elite and oligarchy possessing almost eternal power through its role in the justice system, which ultimately develops as the main point of focus for the documentary as a whole.
The Edge Of Democracy is not meant to be an informative detailing of the last few years in Brazilian politics, but a focused assessment on systemic corruption. There are times when the time period it covers is so chaotic and broad that it becomes difficult to maintain that focus, but the documentary still does a fantastic job to retain a consistent thematic focus all the way through.
In that, the film is a challenging watch, but it packs a lot of information and a huge amount of analysis into an impressively compact space. At the same time, it exemplifies and embodies the chaos experienced in Brazil over the last few years – a clever cinematic choice that comes off to great effect.
What’s more, it’s the film’s sobering and sombre tone that really works as the icing on the cake. Whatever your personal opinions on the subject matter are, director Petra Costa’s passion, insight and emotion are admirable to say the least.
She narrates the film with an overwhelming tone of sombre regret, tinged with deeply personal emotion and a sense of hurt as the chaos unfolds before her very eyes. That passion alone is more than enough to make her perspective on the subject matter as clear as day, while her bravery and commitment to the documentary – throwing herself right into the mix of the political chaos to gather interviews, footage and evidence – is spectacular to see.
As a result, The Edge Of Democracy isn’t just a look back at five years of political wrangling in Brazil. Instead, it uses that as a backdrop for its own perspective on systemic issues of corruption and classist domination of Brazilian politics and society, delivered with immense passion and in a captivating and striking style.
The film may touch on controversial and incredibly recent issues, but it does so with a level-headed approach backed up by entirely credible evidence and ideas. So, that’s why I’m giving it a 7.8 overall.