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  • Jennifer Green

Report: How Jair Bolsonaro’s Election Could Reshape Brazil's Cultural Landscape

From censorship to reductions in government support for the film sector, insiders prepare for upheaval in Latin America’s biggest entertainment market: ‘It will be uncertain times for people that produce culture in Brazil’

De Alan Santos/Presidência da República. - Foto oficial do presidente da república, Jair Bolsonaro., CC BY 3.0 br,

​Within a week after far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro won the presidential election in Brazil on Oct. 28, concerns about the future of the country’s entertainment sector became a major talking point at the Rio De Janeiro International Film Festival, which ran Nov. 1-11.

Top among those concerns: the potential rolling back of government incentives and mechanisms that have helped grow the industry and, more broadly, of basic rights and freedoms in this diverse country.

The festival’s co-executive director, Ilda Santiago, says she didn't attend a single presentation of the 80 short and feature films playing at the fest where Bolsonaro’s election wasn’t a topic of discussion. “The festival is playing a major role in allowing producers, directors, all the different professionals to say we want to guarantee that from here on we go forward, not back,” she told The Hollywood Reporter.

Bolsonaro won with just over 55 percent of the vote. His appeal was attributed to disillusion with unemployment, crime and economic instability in the country, as well as cases of corruption under the ruling Workers’ Party. Supporters said they hoped Bolsonaro would “fix things.”

“I’m pretty optimistic,” says Brazil’s outgoing Minister of Culture Sergio Sa Leitao. “Brazil is already recovering from the huge economic crisis that we had here in 2015 and 2016. I think the new government, at least in the economic field, has the right agenda, which means doing the structural reforms that Brazil really needs in order to be a competitive player in the global arena.”

​But as a candidate and before, Bolsonaro expressed extreme views on everything from the uses of torture to the merits of dictatorships, and he has made patently offensive remarks about women, minorities and members of the LGBTQ community.

“A dark cloud of intimidation and repression is looming over Brazilian civil society,” warns Andrew Fishman, Rio-based managing editor of investigative news outlet The Intercept Brasil. “Jair Bolsonaro is not ‘the Brazilian Trump.’ All signs suggest that he is far more extreme, far more violent and far less restrained by institutions.”

At the recent Sao Paulo International Film Festival, which ran Oct. 18-31 and overlapped with the election, director Brunna Laboissiere, who premiered the doc Fabiana, about a trans woman truck driver, says, "The general climate [at the fest] was critical of the setbacks that the country is going through, fear and uncertainty about what is going to happen, but at the same time a feeling of unity to resist against future attacks."


Photo credit: De Alan Santos/Presidência da República. - Foto oficial do presidente da república, Jair Bolsonaro. CC BY 3.0 br,

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