The Movie Waffler SXSW 2021 Review - EXECUTIVE ORDER | The Movie Waffler

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SXSW 2021 Review - EXECUTIVE ORDER

executive order review
In a near future Brazil, a fascist government orders its Black citizens to leave for Africa.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Lázaro Ramos

Starring: Alfred Enoch, Taís Araújo, Seu Jorge, Adirana Esteves, Renata Sorrah

executive order poster

In similar fashion to Kleber Mendonça Filho and Juliano Dornelles' Bacurau and Gabriel Mascaro's Divine Love, actor turned director Lázaro Ramos's feature debut Executive Order is set in a near future dystopian Brazil where the fascistic policies of Bolsonaro have been given a steroid boost. That's unfortunately where the similarities end, as Ramos's film approaches its hot-button premise in the shallow manner of a Young Adult adaptation.

executive order review

In the film's future Brazil, a white supremacist government is determined to make the country as vanilla as possible. To achieve this, citizens with a high melanin count are offered a free one-way ticket to the African nation of their choosing, dressed up in woke language about Brazil atoning for its colonialist past. Naturally, very few avail of this offer and so the government decides to take more drastic measures. Those with a high melanin count are to be rounded up and deported to Africa.


The film focusses on two characters and their separate storylines in the midst of this purge. Accompanied by his blogger brother (singer Seu Jorge), a young lawyer (British actor Alfred Enoch making his Brazilian debut) holes up in his apartment, protected by a supportive crowd of activists who stream his balcony pleas to the world. Meanwhile his doctor girlfriend (Taís Araújo) finds herself taking refuge in an "Afro-bunker", an underground hideout where the White boyfriend of a gay Black man is put on trial by a kangaroo court.

executive order review

Executive Order certainly has an arresting premise, but Ramos and co-screenwriter Lusa Silvestre haven't thought through how this scenario would play out in any recognisable version of reality. For a start, for the government of Brazil to implement this policy, the nations of Africa would have to go along with such racism, something which simply wouldn't happen. Regardless of the ethical issues, I doubt any African nation would welcome the flood of refugees that would result. Secondly, we're not talking about some predominantly White country were Black and mixed-race people are a small minority – this is Brazil, where half the population has African blood; the logistics of rounding up so many people and sticking them on planes is a complete non-starter. Thirdly, would Brazilians really be willing to destroy their football team overnight? Not to mention what the United Nations might have to say about all this.


Ramos opens his film in goofy fashion, playing on how nonsensical the idea of offering Black people a one-way ticket "home" is, the sort of idea you might hear proffered on a right wing talk show or from a grumpy taxi driver. It has the feel of a teatime "Yoof" TV show, all primary colours, pretty people, hip soundtrack and drone shots for the hell of it. Then when the titular executive order is issued, Ramos tries to tell us it's time to get serious, but this change of tone doesn't fit the playful aesthetic he's established. The resulting film plays out like a chapter of one of the many Young Adult sagas that hogged cinema screens in the last decade, a poorly-conceived dystopian sci-fi in which beautiful young people fight back against an authoritarian regime.

executive order review

Given its premise, you might expect Executive Order to resemble The Battle of Algiers, all riots in the streets and angry revolution, but it falls back on two dull scenarios, its two central characters simply hanging out in their respective sanctuaries. A closing montage narrated by Jorge that employs real life footage of Brazilian protests has a fire in its belly that's notably absent from the staid and superficial movie that precedes it. Rarely has such an incendiary premise been executed in such polite fashion.

Executive Order
 plays online at SXSW from March 16th to 21st.

2021 movie reviews