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The Edge of Democracy (2019)—BrazilThe Edge of Democracy (2019)—Brazil

The actress and film maker Petra Costa wrote, directed, produced, and narrated this documentary about the fall of Brazil's two democratically-elected presidents, and its subsequent descent into the authoritarian, populist regime of Jair Bolsonaro. It's the third in a trilogy of films by Costa that blends her family's personal history with Brazil's national politics. The Edge of Democracy premiered on opening night at the 2019 Sundance festival, and was later nominated for Best Documentary Feature at the 2020 Academy Awards. When President "Lula" left office as a popular two term president (2003-2010), he had an 87% approval rating. Obama famously called him "the most popular politician on earth."  He hand-picked his successor, his former chief of staff Dilma Rousseff, whose approval rating hit 65% (2011-2016). Today, Lula is serving a twelve-year prison term, Rousseff has been impeached, and the far-right and unapologetically vulgar Bolsonaro has earned the praise of Trump. "Today, as I feel the ground opening," says Costa, "I fear our democracy was nothing but a short-lived dream." For more on this important subject, see the book How Democracies Die (2018) by the Harvard University political scientists Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt.

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