by Álvaro André Zeini Cruz

The most moving scene in Alvorada does not have Dilma Rousseff. Instead, it is with Marly Ponce Branco, presented by the documentary as a former personal advisor to the President. At the beginning of the sequence, Marly appears on the phone, asking staff to bring more wine. She prepares what seems to be a small reception for Dilma, who is about to return from that well-known session in which she deigned to give explanations to the deaf directors of the Senate. Dilma’s arrival is not seen, but she is heard from the anteroom where Marly is. Before the clatter of glasses and applause, Marly is seen from a distance, just as she spying on the reception she helped prepare. Infected by the toasts, Marli raises her own glass and, segregated from that political meeting, toasts with the air. Another advisor (apparently) sympathizes and, although belatedly, goes to meet Marly with a glass. Marly then goes back to snooping around the door, left out not quite by Dilma or any other politician there, but by a palatial force that seems to impose a mise-en-scene of power. Ironically, this game of scene, which precedes and surpasses the film, separates the last President of the Republic elected by the Workers’ Party from the Alvorada workers themselves. These scenes – which are perhaps flawed acts – bring some freshness to the film by Anna Muylaert and Lô Politi.

That’s because the behind-the-scenes record brings little news compared to previous films about the 2016 coup. The scenes in which Dilma meets with entities or prepares her defence are bureaucratic, in the sense that they are not interested in the moments themselves; one or two splinters of these moments are enough. A humanization of Dilma is effective, but the President herself jokes – after all, if she is not human, what is she? In this vein, Alvorada is concerned with portraying Dilma’s intelligence and good intellectual training, but I believe that none of these things is a doubt for those who intend to see the film (which does not mean that the government of Dilma Rousseff does not may be a question to that same viewer).

The fact is that Alvorada seems to want to show the Whatsapp reader – the one who still rejoices with Dilma’s famous manioc discourse – that Dilma Rousseff is a reader of Machado de Assis, Guimarães Rosa and Saramago and that she has an excellent historical knowledge of the parents. None of this is new. Revealing is the scene with Aloísio Mercadante in which the so-called “hardness” of the President emerges. This “harshness”, however, does not appear to be dealing with direct interpersonal relationships, but something that goes from the institutionality of the position to the balancing act done by a woman on this tightrope tied by white and old men (“old” in the sense of backward, which even governs the country today).

It may not be intentional, but it is only when Dilma leaves the Palace that the workers actually occupy it, circulating freely through all the layers of the plan, not just along the edges or in the depth of field; or, at least, it is only there that “Alvorada” registers them in this way. What is documented (which does not mean that this was true) is that the rites and dispositions of politics and its buildings reflect the abyss separating people and power. And if the various social advances during the Workers’ Party governments are undeniable, what Alvorada does – I believe without meaning to – is a portrait of fields and counter fields, which replicates a strict dichotomy within this power environment. The partitions preventing Marly from entering the main room to toast her President are the same barriers preventing Dilma Rousseff from governing. Thus, it is not a documentary about the coup but about survivors segregated under a roof that oppresses because it was so grounded for it. It is not about the expulsion of a tenant by the owners of power but about the maintenance of “white collars” in step with the potentization of outsourced uniforms, which appear so often in Alvorada. Dilma says she doesn’t believe in evil, but maybe Temer was right: Alvorada is haunted, perhaps because its bricks are made of this material.

Finally, the synthesis scene is also a tiny misstep-scene that involves the director herself: engaged in a conversation with advisors, Anna Muylaert takes a while to notice the waiter who hands her something on the tray. It is a volatile moment but symbolic in a film that registers the borders of a palace built, built, covered and finished by Brazils that do not mix.

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