2019 Sundance Docs in Focus: THE EDGE OF DEMOCRACY

Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Orlando Brito

Petra Costa offers a cautionary tale as she explores Brazil’s recent political scandals.

Festival Section:
World Cinema Documentary Competition


Sundance Program Description:

Once a nation crippled by military dictatorship, Brazil found its democratic footing in 1985 and then, in 2002, elected a hugely popular political disrupter: steel-worker-turned-activist Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. Under his watch, 20 million Brazilians were lifted out of poverty, and his country rose to international prominence. In 2010, “Lula” passed the presidential baton to his prodigy, a fierce female guerrilla named Dilma Rousseff.

But beneath their sunny legacy, rumblings of populist rage and institutional corruption seeped into the mainstream – much of it abetted by a partisan judge who fed news outlets sensational, deeply flawed corruption reports that targeted Lula, Dilma, and anyone else who refused to scratch the backs of powerful politicians and special-interest groups.

With remarkably intimate access, THE EDGE OF DEMOCRACY follows Brazil’s embattled leaders as they grapple with a scandal born out of their country’s fascist past and inflamed by a furious and ideologically divided nation. Like a great Greek tragedy, Petra Costa’s film carries a potent warning: Brazil’s crisis is one that is shared – and fomented – by Western superpowers run by equally treacherous political forces.

Some Background:

  • Petra Costa

    Costa received support from the Sundance Institute’s Documentary Film Program and participated in the Creative Producing Summit and Documentary Edit and Story Lab with this, her third documentary feature.


  • Joanna Natasegara

    This is British producer Natasegara’s first Sundance credit. She won the Oscar as the producer for the short doc THE WHITE HELMETS and was nominated for the doc feature VIRUNGA.

  • Shane Boris
    Past Sundance docs:


    Cottage M’s Boris is a creative producer who focuses on projects that push conventional forms.

  • Tiago Pavan

    Pavan produced or associate produced Costa’s two previous doc features. This is his first Sundance project.


  • David Barker

    Barker was the writer/director/producer/editor of the Sundance-debuting fiction feature AFRAID OF EVERYTHING, editor for Sundance alumni fiction title HERE, and consulting editor for alumni fiction title MADELINE’S MADELINE. He also worked on Costa’s sophomore feature.


  • Moara Passoni

    Passoni associate produced Costa’s previous features. This is her first Sundance credit.

  • Carol Pires

    This is Pires’ first Sundance credit. She has a background as a journalist,


  • Karen Harley
    Past Sundance docs:

    WASTE LAND (2011)

    Harley also cut Sundance fiction alum THE SECOND MOTHER.

  • Tina Baz
    Past Sundance docs:

    FIX ME (2010)

    Baz also cut Sundance fiction alums LILA SAYS and SAVAGE GRACE, as well as Costa’s two previous features.

  • Felipe Lacerda
    Past Sundance docs:

    BUS 174 (2003)

    Lacerda also cut Walter Salles’ Sundance fiction alum FOREIGN LAND and CENTRAL STATION.

  • Joaquim Castro and Jordana Berg

    This marks Castro and Berg’s first Sundance credits.

Why You Should Watch:
Costa’s personal access to major figures in Brazil’s outrageous impeachment and corruption scandals provides the film with a distinctive, insider viewpoint, but her storytelling impresses by presenting this complex situation with clarity for outside viewers. The doc will premiere as one of this year’s Day One screenings.

More Info:

For Sundance screening dates and times, click the film title in the first paragraph.

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Filed under Documentary, Film, Film Festivals, Recommendations, Sundance

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