restricted access Chapter 5 Developments under Democracy: Brazilian Women’s Filmmaking in a New Era
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5 Developments under Democracy Brazilian Women’s Filmmaking in a New Era The years encompassing the transition from an autocratic regime to democracy in Brazil did not progress without challenges. Director Lúcia Murat’s 1996 filmDocesPodereshighlightstheimportanceofthemovingimagetointervene in democratic reconstruction of the nation and speaks to a key turning point in Brazil’s recent political history. The film’s protagonist, a television journalist , Bia (Marisa Orth), travels to Brasília to cover the political campaigns for upcoming gubernatorial elections where a white, conservative man linked to an established, inner network of political power, and a black, progressive male candidate run for office. Bia’s democratic ideals regarding the role of the media in the new democratic electoral politics come up against corruption inside political parties and the manipulation of the media to shape party politics. Discursively engaging with a growing popular sense of political empowerment , Bia asserts her right as a citizen of Brazil by holding firm to ethical principles guiding her role as a journalist and denounces the manipulation of the media. At one point in the narrative, a politician named Chico (Antônio Fagundes) is interviewed on television about the state of politics in Brazil. The interviewer asks Chico about perceived unusual alliances between parties of the Left with a party that had been affiliated with the military regime. Chico normalizes the situation, espousing the need to move beyond the past and concerns with political purity and arguing that political pragmatism is the reality of “um país de terceiro mundo em transição” (a third-world country in transition). More than a decade later, few would still unhesitatingly refer to Brazil as a third world country, but many would agree that Brazil continues to transition toward an increasingly stronger democracy. Marsh_Text.indd 154 8/7/12 2:34 PM Developments under Democracy · 155 Painting a New (Socio)political Portrait Just as Murat’s film reflects on concerns about political instability, the fragility of political parties, and governability that characterized the first period of transition to democracy, the film simultaneously points toward ongoing concerns with solidifying democratic practices and consolidating citizenship rights. The first period of Brazil’s democratic transition ended roughly in 1994 with the election of Fernando Henrique Cardoso and when then-president Itamar Franco decreed (during the last six months of his administration) the Plano Real. According to political scientist Timothy Power, the economic reformsofthePlanoRealandCardoso ’seffectivemanagementofpowersharing effectively “rebooted” the democratic regime in the mid-1990s, diminishing authoritarian cleavages lingering in the late 1980s.1 Indeed,thesecondphaseofBrazil’sdemocratictransitionhasbeennotable for a number of political and social accomplishments. When former union organizer and cofounder of the Worker’s Party, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, was sworn in on January 1, 2007, it marked the first time in Brazil’s history that a democratically elected president—Fernando Henrique Cardoso—turned over power to a democratically elected president who was then able to serve out a complete term in office.2 During his tenure in office, Lula implemented and expanded a number of widely recognized social and economic programs (such as Bolsa Escola, Bolsa Família) to improve the quality of life of the poorest segments of society and to begin to reverse years of social exclusion . In conjunction with an increasing awareness of individuals’ rights and their ability to put pressure on government officials, Brazil’s urban poor have challenged a regime of differentiated citizenship and radically redefined the meanings of cidadão (citizen) and cidadania (citizenship).3 The increasing strength of Brazil’s political systems should not overshadow numerous problems that continue to limit the reach of democracy. While individual Brazilians may have a redefined concept of citizenship, at the same time corruption, violence, and concerns with security hamper the full exercise of citizenship rights. Alongside a new awareness there are increasing frustrations . Despite greater stability in the political process and positive economic growth, there is an ever-decreasing tolerance for ongoing social exclusion. Historian and anthropologist Janice Perlman reports a marked disenchantment with and lack of faith in Brazil’s political system.4 Years after the end of military rule in Brazil, the nation’s citizenry still demands transparency and accountability in politics. The promises of democracy have not brought immediate improvements or fully enfranchised citizenship for all. Marsh_Text.indd 155 8/7/12 2:34 PM 156 . Chapter 5 The elections of November 2010 in Brazil mark yet another important phase in the recent history of Brazil’s (relatively young) democracy. The election of Dilma...


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