Why Make This Film Now?
As Brazil struggles to fortify its fragile democracy amid turbulent times, the global audience is watching closely. Brasilia, the capital of Latin America’s largest nation, stands as a microcosm or the issues being brought to bear nationally. Built from scratch 600 miles inland, Brasilia was envisioned as a dream city, meant to thrust the nation ahead with a modern capital.
Though it has delivered much of that promise, in other ways Brasilia is just like the rest of urban Brazil: surrounded by enormous slums, supported by dispossessed migrant workers, and plagued by long-standing corruption. The lessons inherent in the story of Brasilia, historically defined by its incipient democratic movement, have implications worldwide as nations reconcile with globalization and their own economic insecurity. Structures that once represented progress, order, justice, equality, and freedom, are once again being considered sanctuaries for demagogues aiming to preserve their dubious positions, and implementing policy in the name of progress and development for the benefit of only the elite.
One needs not look further than today’s news to understand the topicality of the content of “A Machine to Live In.” With President Dilma Rousseff having been impeached after sustained protests last August and current President Michel Temer now under scrutiny with the word “impeachment” being floated again, Brazil’s democracy remains fragile. Through casting new light on the dynamic story of the city, where of course these impeachments are now taking place, we are offering a new, historically informed perspective on this challenging moment.
All over the world, monuments are falling and power structures are being challenged. We now understand how modern cities bring to the fore the deep-seated problems of Western civilization in imagining spaces for the human body and mind. For the most part, these spaces have been created by erasing nature to replace it with a composite that hardens over time, concrete.
Recent urban dramas tell us that the ruins of urbanism in which we live cannot be simply converted into futuristic monuments through a large-scale technology injection that will automatically produce harmonious urban spaces from scratch. As we continue to hear the distorted echo of failed utopias, the déjà vu promises of “smart cities” attract thousands of migrant workers, often badly treated and manipulated with false promises, to build mega-cities in places like Saudi Arabia, China, and many other cities planned from the point of view of the administrators.