The new documentary by Brazilian duo Victor Fraga and Valnei Nunes dissects the role of media in creating the conditions to dismantle democracy and pave the way for the rise of Jair Bolsonaro.
Since the 1990s, Latin America has seen the rise of a new form of coup d’état. Democracy and the ‘signs of freedom’ have become so entrenched in cultural life that the use of military force to impose a dictatorship has become archaic, out of joint. While the tried-and-tested formula remains an option – as witnessed in Bolivia in November 2019 – a more pernicious form of domination has also been elaborated, one that sits comfortably within the confines of ‘democracy.’ Indeed, the modern coup is affected without a weapon, without a drop of blood. It takes the form of a legal process, a judiciary war, without infringing on the constitutional order. Using the apparatuses of parliamentary democracy, it hides in plain sight by waging lawfare, a term coined for the abuse of law for political ends.
With a particular focus on the role of the media giant O Globo in the recent political developments of Brazil, The Coup d’État Factory‘s central aim is to expose the imbroglio between the media, politics and the judiciary system in their symbiotic attempts to coerce a political vision onto a population in order to sustain power. Through this framework, the duo of directors Victor Fraga and Valnei Nunes, discuss and lay out the tumultuous political history of the last few decades, marked by protests, scandals, coups dressed up as impeachments, samba carnivals and, finally, the rise of the far-right.
In that sense The Coup d’État Factory succeeds impeccably in providing viewers with a succinct and clear-sighted account of events – a difficult task indeed, for Fraga and Nunes have to work against the parasitic presence of Globo, which they vigorously denounce as being a factory for the distortion of ‘truth.’ The Coup d’État Factory is therefore an antagonistic work against the media conglomerates which control and manipulate the ways in which the world can relate to itself.
The film is a dynamic collage of various techniques. Fraga and Nunes interlace archive footage with ominous drone images; black and white drawings illustrate the essayistic voice-over, performed by Fraga himself, intermittently narrating amidst interviews with a varied array of commentators. They include former president Dilma Rousseff, politician Jean Wyllys, philosopher Marcia Tibara, journalist Glenn Greenwald, former mayor of London Ken Livingstone and Rousseff’s predecessor Lula Da Silva, speaking from prison, among many others.
Taking the form of an incisive exposé on journalistic malpractices, misconstructions and outright lies propagated to sabotage freedom of thought, the film deconstructs, with didactic precision, the web of fake news that has plagued Brazilian media for decades. In a brilliant introductory narration, Fraga sets up the tone for the entire documentary: in 1913, two journalists from A Noite fabricate an event for the purposes of propaganda. They plant a roulette in the middle of Carioca Square, which inevitably causes a sensation. After photographing the tumultuous