Globo Original Docu Series ‘Extremists.Br’ Broken Down by Director Caio Cavechini

Brazilian media titan Globo presented its ambitious documentary series “” to market audiences in Berlin last month, alongside a slate of equally promising emerging concepts. With sights now turned to France, the telenovela and docu-centric powerhouse is gearing up for buyers at Series Mania.

Directed by journalist and documentary filmmaker Caio Cavechini (“Marielle – The Crime That Shook Brazil”), the project examines Brazil’s far-right movement, from the sociology of its radical idolatry to the foundations of the corrosive propaganda campaigns that encourage him to shine a torch on the very divisive political climate of the country.

With breathtaking ease, the eight-part series captures the ease with which a captive audience quickly takes on tall tales, with original and nuanced thought thrown out the window as the faithful cling to their dogmas, waging war with battle cries cut and pasted as the vivid green and yellow flag of their country hangs over their shoulders, representative of a certain painted patriotism.

The Globoplay Original, produced by the company’s journalism arm, examines the lives of people adjacent to the faction through interviews with contingent defenders, defectors, sociologists and an agent provocateur who develops carefully orchestrated chaos.

Cavechini spoke with Variety on demystifying the turbulent coalition and the future of a global political arena linked to fast-spreading online information.
Courtesy of Globo

When charting the course of the series, how did you decide which participants would be involved?

We have seen many far-right protests over two years, in dozens of states in Brazil. The research for the characters in the documentary took place in these environments. But there were other ways: Some researchers cross-referenced data from public WhatsApp groups and identified which phones were triggering the most content to guide discussions. We’ve called hundreds of these cell phones “influencers.”

It is important to note that in an environment of extreme streaming competition between platforms, including disputes over famous criminal cases, in “Extremists.Br” there was a very risky bet from Globoplay and Globo’s Journalism: invest in a current affairs documentary in which anything could happen. New characters have emerged, new events have surpassed the previous ones, the radicalism sown by the highest authorities of the country has germinated in distant places. It is a very complex canvas and its representation required constant changes in the editing of the episodes. Even in the case of sociologists and specialists, their analyzes often ended up dated, given a new fact in the local reality. We recorded over a thousand hours of material.

A healthy skepticism that holds government accountable should be normal, to ensure that the people are taken care of rather than the profiteers. Do you think our institutions are partly responsible for increasing the divide, pushing the atmosphere from honest questioning of their actions to violent uprising?

The beauty of democracy is to be able to question power, monitor its abuses, accuse its deviations. Periodically, voters can decide whether these discrepancies are reason enough to change the incumbent or not. This healthy debate has been completely distorted by new communication tools and I do not see the governments of the world as the first to light this fuse. The radicalization of large sections of the population has only been possible with the development of a parallel public sphere, backed by social networks. They are spaces of permanent mobilization, of reiteration of fear and urgency.

Of course, conspiracy theories and violent rhetoric need ballast in genuine dissatisfaction – which will then be manipulated and distorted. I think it is important to also include the responsibility of economic power in the erosion of public trust. We are living through an economic crisis and a climate crisis, not to mention that we have just emerged from a global pandemic. Inequality is a palpable phenomenon and the future for many people does not look bright. The far right has been able to divert the public debate to offer answers that are easy to assimilate, with attractive language, which fit very well into the business model of the major platforms.

Brazilian President Lula de Silva has mentioned the introduction of a law that would punish speech conceived as disinformation. Do you think it’s wise to put the power to judge what is and isn’t “fake news” in the hands of those in power? How do you think this might affect your work?

I think it is necessary to differentiate the political initiative from the call for a regulatory effort over who will exercise this power. Autocrats don’t need big legislative debates on disinformation to implement censorship. Bolsonarism itself, which on the one hand has defended freedoms by rejecting laws such as “fake news”, on the other hand has politically interfered in state bodies, historically independent of governments, to restrict the flow of information and attack opponents.

Government-led media surveillance does not need new laws to take effect – and it clearly has the potential to destroy the foundations of my work and the foundations of our democratic society. But, in proposing disinformation regulation, we are not talking about a superficial solution. This is a necessary debate in the face of a new, very harmful reality, for which no one has found the formula to deal with it. This debate involves the checks and balances of democracy, where there are judges, superior courts, the possibility of legislative oversight and monitoring by independent bodies. Not meeting the regulatory challenge is only in the interest of the big platforms’ business model – and we see how this virtual ‘anything goes’ can have consequences in the real world.

At the end of the project, did you have hope for the future of politics in Brazil and in the world? Or, is there a sense that our disconnect from each other and our attachment to an Internet full of sharp algorithms has taken us too far to revert to a more human approach to our disagreements?

It is difficult to spend two years immersed in the parallel and violent reality of the extreme right, to realize how widespread this discourse is in Brazilian society, and to leave full of hope. The electoral defeat may not have reduced the ability to mobilize, just look at the large number of elected parliamentarians who appealed to the same distortions, using these algorithms. So I think the next few years will still be quite hectic.

But just as running after stories is what moves me, listening to them, understanding them, being surprised by them is what transforms me. I still believe that in the same way that falsified narratives have hijacked public debate, a joint effort of education, communication and discovery can restore our coexistence with the different.
Courtesy of Globo


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