Impossible release in Brazil of a film on the racist drift of a fictitious far-right government

Suspected of attacking the administration of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, the feature film completed in 2020 is still waiting to be broadcast in the country. A delay that is akin to censorship, deplores its director.

The satire does not pass. The film Presidential decree (Medida Provisória), a dystopian and creaking production that denounces the problem of racism in Brazil, has been screened since last year in several international festivals, notably in Moscow or Memphis, but still has no commercial release date in its own country. The problem ? Its outrageous scenario – the forced return to Africa of blacks from the country that demanded reparations for the damage caused by slavery – as well as the casting of the film’s fictitious government. Which resembles some members of the administration of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro to be mistaken.

First feature film by Lazaro Ramos, an actor very famous in Brazil and recognized abroad for his role in Madame Satan (2002), the distribution of Presidential decree has been hampered for months because of problems with Ancine, the national cinema agency responsible for regulating the sector. Incidentally dependent on the Brazilian Ministry of Culture, the government structure has been accused of “censorship” since the arrival of far-right President Jair Bolsonaro in January 2019.

“I don’t know if it’s bureaucracy or censorship, but both are harmful to culture”, Lazaro Ramos said during a debate at the Rio de Janeiro International Film Festival. It was during this festival that the film premiered in Brazil on Wednesday evening. “The idea of ​​this film is to educate people. I want the spectator, seeing him, to cry and tell himself that he is capable of leading an anti-racist fight ”, entrusted the director to AFP on the sidelines of this screening very applauded by the public.

A “filter” on theatrical releases

And for good reason: in the film, the “Presidential decree” eponymous obliges all black people, or rather “with accentuated melaninAs the government calls them, to surrender to the authorities to be deported to Africa. Some representatives of this fictitious government look like members of the Bolsonaro administration, and the film is full of references to the racist prejudices that are legion in Brazil, the last country in America to have abolished slavery, in 1888. .

It is a victimization and a defamatory attack on our president.

Sergio Camargo, President of the Palmares Cultural Foundation

“It was very moving”, said Tais Araujo, wife of Lazaro Ramos and one of the film’s main actresses, alongside comedian and singer Seu Jorge and Alfred Enoch, Anglo-Brazilian known for his roles in the saga Harry potter or the How to Get Away with Murder series. “My character is a black woman who, at the beginning, didn’t want to talk about racism, wanted to give herself the right to live, but had to dive in” head down in these problems, explains Tais Araujo.

In April, Sergio Camargo, president of the Palmares Cultural Foundation, a public institute supposed to promote Afro-Brazilian culture, called for a boycott of this feature film. “It is a victimization and a defamatory attack on our president”, had let go of this black and negationist leader who had hit the headlines in the past by claiming that slavery had been “Beneficial for Afro-descendants”. According to the film’s production, the distribution grant application was filed in November 2020, but the Ancine still hasn’t followed through a year later.

Another film screened at several festivals around the world experienced similar problems: Marighella, which tells the life of Carlos Marighella, one of the leaders of the armed struggle against the military dictatorship (1964-1985), a regime which Jair Bolsonaro continues to praise. This film was only released in theaters last month, after having seen its requests rejected by Ancina twice in 2019. In July of that same year, President Bolsonaro had already made it known that he wanted “filter” Brazilian cinema productions. Despite all these difficulties, Lazaro Ramos does not intend to give up: “We are not going to stop addressing these important themes, to reflect on how this country was built”. L’Ancine suggested, last Wednesday, that the broadcast request for Presidential decree continued to be “Analyzing”.


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