Secret friend

Hélio Oiticica, B11 Box Bólide 09, 1964


Commentary on the documentary film by Maria Augusta Ramos

The documentary Secret friend, directed by Maria Augusta Ramos, opened this Thursday, June 16. The express project of the film – to accompany the work of journalists committed to investigating the bowels of the Lava-Jato Operation – ended up unfolding in a consistent reading of the country's history in the last five or six years.

According to what we see and hear in the documentary, the great anti-corruption operation undertaken by a task force based in Curitiba, with ex-judge and ex-minister Sergio Moro as a stellar figure, is at the center of the constellation of relations political, economic and media that, deliberately or not, led to the current nightmare.

In works like Future June e The process, the experienced documentary filmmaker Maria Augusta Ramos had already shown herself capable of, in the heat of the moment, critically documenting what goes on beneath the surface of the news and public discourse. Her focus is deep, her object is the bowels of historical processes. In Secret friend, it is a matter of scrutinizing two scenes in parallel: that of Lava-Jato itself and that of the journalistic work committed to unveiling (or denouncing) it.

In its most engaging moments, the documentary seems to place the viewer side by side with the reporters, as if accompanying them in the investigation. They are Leandro Demori, from the website The Intercept, and journalists Carla Jiménez, Regiane Oliveira and Marina Rossi, from the Brazilian edition of The country.

This search is “illustrated”, commented on or reinforced by archival material (TV news, testimonies by former President Lula to Sérgio Moro, the fateful ministerial meeting in which Bolsonaro expresses his willingness to intervene in the Federal Police, Lula’s first interview in prison , demonstrations for and against the president, etc.) and new interviews that provide information and interpretations on the operation of Lava-Jato. In one of the most scathing interviews, an Odebrecht executive says that those arrested in the operation were pressured to implicate Lula in his accusations.

Between one revelation and another, brief connection plans run away from the scheme talking heads and lend dynamism and freshness to the report: a reporter traveling by car along Avenida Paulista, another arriving on foot to a pro-Bolsonaro demonstration, a late afternoon in Praça dos Três Poderes.

Interestingly, it is possible to see an analogy between the journalists' excitement when discovering Lava-Jato's dirt and the excitement of the members of the task force itself in the secret messages they exchanged with each other and which were unveiled by the Intercept. In a relaxed moment, when reading some of these messages to his colleagues, Leandro Demori even imitates the squeaky voice of Sérgio Moro. One investigation, in a way, mirrors the other, or parodies it.

There will certainly be those who accuse Maria Augusta Ramos of showing “only one side” of the issue and offering a univocal reading of the meaning of events. In fact, even though there is no wording or signs explaining an interpretation, all the material selected and assembled points to the understanding of Lava-Jato as a politically biased operation from the beginning, with flagrant international connections (read North American interests ), which resulted in the dismantling and demoralization of the institutions we are witnessing.

In defense of the director, it is necessary to admit that, for five years, a favorable narrative was built in our hegemonic media, in a unison and uncritical way, to the lavajatista performance, to the point of erecting Sérgio Moro in savior of the homeland and anti-corruption champion. If the mainstream press, during this period, did not bother to investigate and point out the obvious distortions and misconduct of Lava-Jato and its symbol-character, Secret friend takes upon himself the right to construct an alternative to this mythology.

It is this intention of presenting a comprehensive critical view that explains the inclusion in the film of elements that, in principle, do not seem to have anything to do directly with Lava-Jato. For example, scenes of crowded ICUs at the height of Covid, or the excerpt from the aforementioned ministerial meeting in which Ricardo Salles, from the Environment, speaks of the pandemic as a propitious moment to “pass the cattle” of the weakening of environmental legislation. Or even the latest images, of an immensity of forest destroyed by fire.

In the view of Maria Augusta Ramos, everything is connected. The Brazil that resulted from the collusion of lavajatismo with Bolsonarism is a devastated land. That's what Secret friend tells us, in words and pictures.

*Jose Geraldo Couto is a film critic. Author, among other books, of André Breton (Brasiliense).

Originally published on CINEMA BLOG


Secret friend
Brazil, Germany. Holland, 2022, 131 minutes
Direction: Maria Augusta Ramos
Photographs: Diego Lajst
Assembly: Karen Akerman (Additional Editing by Eva Randolph)

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