The Edge of Democracy

The Edge of Democracy (Portuguese: Democracia em Vertigem) is a 2019 Brazilian documentary film directed by Petra Costa. The film follows the political past of the filmmaker in a personal way, in context with the first term of President Lula and the events leading to the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff, analyzing the rise and fall of both presidents as well as the 2014 socio-political crisis that swept Brazil.[1][2] The arrest of Lula paved the way for Jair Bolsonaro 2018 campaign and presidency.[3] It had its world premiere at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival and was released by Netflix on June 19, 2019.[4] It was nominated for Best Documentary Feature at the 92nd Academy Awards.[5][6]

The Edge of Democracy
The Edge of Democracy poster.png
Official poster
Directed byPetra Costa
Produced by
Written by
CinematographyJoão Atala
  • Busca Vida Filmes
Distributed byNetflix
Release date
  • January 24, 2019 (2019-01-24) (Sundance Film Festival)
  • June 19, 2019 (2019-06-19) (Netflix)
Running time
121 minutes


The film had its world premiere at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival on January 24, 2019.[7] Netflix acquired the distribution rights to the film which was released worldwide on June 19, 2019, along with a theatrical run in New York and Los Angeles.[8] The film was also screened at the CPH:DOX,[9] the San Francisco International Film Festival,[10] Sheffield Doc/Fest,[11] the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival[12] and the Montclair Film Festival.[13]


Critical responseEdit

On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 97% based on 30 reviews.[14] On Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating to reviews, the film has a weighted average score of 81 out of 100, based on 13 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".[15]

A. O. Scott of The New York Times praised the film, calling it "a chronicle of civic betrayal and the abuse of power, and also of heartbreak, under the perspective by the filmmaker Petra Costa, who narrates the documentary in the first person."[16] Leslie Felperin of The Guardian gave the film 4 out of 5 stars, saying, "Costa manages to craft an intimate primer about the state's descent into populism and the fraying of the country's democratic fabric."[17] David Ehrlich of IndieWire gave the film a grade of B, and described it as "an angry, intimate, and haunting portrait of Brazil's recent slide back into the open jaws of dictatorship."[18] The online newspaper The A.V. Club praises the coverage of the themes, but criticizes the documentary's lack of comprehensiveness: "Costa understandably places emphasis on the unjust political machinations of Brazil’s Lower House, but also glosses over the failures of Rousseff’s government and its incontrovertible manipulation of the federal budget."[19]


The documentary caused controversy in Brazil and was considered by some to be a partisan propaganda tool by those claiming Petra Costa misrepresented historical facts about Brazil in and tampered with photos removing guns in a picture of two dead leftist militants - including Pedro Pomar (a political mentor of Costa's mother) - who were killed by the police in 1976 during the military ditactorship.

Costa confirmed editing the photo, alleging she wanted to pay tribute to the men, since the National Truth Commission confirmed the scene was tampered by the military to justify an alleged gunfight and held the State responsible for the crime.[20][citation needed] Luan Sperandio of Gazeta do Povo enumerated a list of 45 important omissions and false narratives in the documentary, concluding that "the film fulfills its role: to ignore facts, data and evidence to sell the Worker's Party world view of the impeachment, Lula's arrest and the election of Jair Bolsonaro."[21][22]

The Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said that "the film is not a documentary but a fiction, and only fit for vultures to eat."[23]


Award Date of ceremony Category Recipient(s) Result Ref(s)
CPH:DOX April 1, 2019 CPH:DOX Award The Edge of Democracy Nominated
Sheffield International Documentary Festival June 12, 2019 Tim Hetherington Award The Edge of Democracy Nominated
Sundance Film Festival February 3, 2019 World Cinema - Documentary The Edge of Democracy Nominated
Academy Awards February 9, 2020 Best Documentary Feature The Edge of Democracy Nominated
Cinema for Peace February 23, 2020 The Most Political Film of the year 2020 The Edge of Democracy Nominated [28]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "'Democracia em Vertigem', de Petra Costa, é ovacionado em Sundance". Correio Braziliense (in Portuguese). January 25, 2019. Retrieved June 6, 2019.
  2. ^ ""The Edge of Democracy Offers an Outraged but Skimpy Primer"". June 17, 2019. Retrieved October 29, 2019.
  3. ^[dead link]
  4. ^ ""Democracia em Vertigem": Netflix lança trailer de doc sobre impeachment de Dilma". Universo Online (in Portuguese). June 5, 2019. Retrieved June 6, 2019.
  5. ^ Aris Folley Obama says he's 'glad' for best documentary Oscar nomination Jan 13, 2020
  6. ^ Ying, Xiu (2020-01-13). "Brazilian Documentary 'The Edge of Democracy' Nominated for Oscar". The Rio Times. Retrieved 2020-01-14.
  7. ^ Pond, Steve (January 24, 2019). "'Edge of Democracy' Film Review: Documentary About Brazilian Politics Finds Echoes Close to Home". TheWrap. Retrieved June 6, 2019.
  8. ^ Zilko, Christian (June 5, 2019). "'The Edge of Democracy' Trailer: A Front Row Seat to An Authoritarian Backslide — Exclusive". IndieWire. Retrieved June 6, 2019.
  9. ^ Lodge, Guy (April 25, 2019). "Film Review: 'The Edge of Democracy'". Variety. Retrieved June 6, 2019.
  10. ^ "Part of SFFILM Festival – The Edge of Democracy". SFFILM. Retrieved June 6, 2019.
  11. ^ "Sheffield Doc/Fest: Sheffield International Documentary Festival". Retrieved 2019-10-01.
  12. ^ Parker, Andrew (April 22, 2019). "Hot Docs 2019 Review: The Edge of Democracy". Retrieved June 6, 2019.
  13. ^ "Montclair Film Festival May 3 – May 12, 2019". Montclair Film Festival. Retrieved June 6, 2019.
  14. ^ "The Edge of Democracy". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved February 9, 2020.
  15. ^ "The Edge of Democracy". Metacritic. CBS. Retrieved February 9, 2020.
  16. ^ Scott, A. O. (June 18, 2019). "Review: 'Edge of Democracy' Looks at Brazil With Outrage and Heartbreak". The New York Times. Retrieved June 24, 2019.
  17. ^ Felperin, Leslie (June 21, 2019). "The Edge of Democracy review – to the heart of Brazilian politics". The Guardian. Retrieved June 24, 2019.
  18. ^ Ehrlich, David (June 18, 2019). "'The Edge of Democracy' Review: Brazil's Slide Towards Fascism Becomes a Cautionary Tale". IndieWire. Retrieved June 24, 2019.
  19. ^ Garcia, Lawrence (June 17, 2019). "The Edge Of Democracy offers an outraged but skimpy primer on Brazil's recent political woes". The A.V. Club. Retrieved February 3, 2020.
  20. ^ "Petra Costa adultera foto e exclui armas em cena de 'Democracia em Vertigem'". Folha de S.Paulo (in Portuguese). 2019-07-30. Retrieved 2020-02-07.
  21. ^ "Listamos 45 erros factuais de "Democracia em Vertigem"". Gazeta do Povo (in Portuguese). Retrieved 2020-02-07.
  22. ^ "The list of all lies contained in 'The Edge of Democracy'". MBL News (in Portuguese). Retrieved 2020-02-07.
  23. ^ Benzine, Adam (January 24, 2020). "'The Edge of Democracy' Acts as Warning Shot for America, Says Director". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved February 4, 2020.
  24. ^ "The winners of CPH:DOX 2019 are…". CPH:DOX. April 1, 2019. Retrieved June 24, 2019.
  25. ^ "Tim Hetherington Award at Sheffield Documentary Festival 2019". Tim Hetherington Trust. June 11, 2019. Retrieved June 24, 2019.
  26. ^ "Sundance 2019 preview: World Cinema Documentary competition". Screendaily. January 20, 2019. Retrieved June 24, 2019.
  27. ^ "Oscar Nominations 2020: The Complete List". Variety. January 13, 2020. Retrieved January 13, 2020.
  28. ^

External linksEdit