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Brazil Documentary Gets Oscar Nomination, Exposes Division

An Oscar statue is pictured at the press preview for the 91st Academy Awards Governors Ball, Feb. 15, 2019, in Los Angeles.

The Academy Award nomination for a Brazilian documentary about the impeachment of then-President Dilma Rousseff has once again laid bare the polarization of Latin America's largest democracy.

In “The Edge of Democracy,” 36-year-old filmmaker Petra Costa uses her personal story to argue that Brazil's democracy is at risk after the abrupt end to governments led by the leftist Workers' Party.

With Rousseff's removal in 2016, her conservative vice president, Michel Temer, assumed power and in 2018, far-right Jair Bolsonaro defeated the Workers' Party candidate to win the presidency.

Leftist politicians said Monday's nomination validates their interpretation of Rousseff's impeachment as a soft coup, as Costa suggests. Rousseff's mentor, former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who recently was released from jail pending appeal of his corruption conviction, praised Costa on Twitter for “the seriousness in which she narrated this important time of our history.’

“Truth will prevail,” he wrote.

Conservatives fired back, slamming the film's veracity and insisting Brazil's first female president deserved to be ousted for manipulating budget figures.

“Congratulations to filmmaker Petra Costa on her nomination for best fiction and fantasy,” the Brazilian Social Democracy Party, which was instrumental in Rousseff's impeachment process, said on Twitter.

Roberto Alvim, Bolsonaro's secretary of culture, also said Costa's documentary amounts to fiction and told local newspaper Folha de S.Paulo that its recognition by Hollywood proves the culture wars are being waged internationally.

Costa, for her part, said on her social media channels that the documentary was urgent "in a time where the far right is spreading like an epidemic.''

The other films nominated for best documentary are “American Factory,” “The Cave” “For Sam” and “Honeyland.” The winning film will be announced at a Feb. 9 ceremony in Los Angeles.