By Beatriz Miranda, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – On March 23, 2018, the online streaming platform, Netflix, launched “O Mecanismo” (The Mechanism), a series based on the “Operação Lava Jato” (Operation Car Wash), the investigation against the biggest corruption scheme in Brazil that has been running for over four years.
Ahead of the series is José Padilha, who directed the Brazilian box office hit “Elite Squad” (2007), and produced the series “Narcos” (2015).
The first season of “O Mecanismo” uncovers the origins of the Lava Jato investigation, which consisted in a money-laundering scheme at a gas station in the capital Brasília.
As the plot evolves, characters Ruffo and Verena, the Federal Police agents running the mission, find out the corruption scheme actually exists at a macro level, sustained by a complex network that bonds political parties, lawmakers, and the most powerful private construction companies.
Divided into eight episodes, the policial thriller claims to be a fictional work freely inspired by real events, allegedly an unbiased portrait of a phenomenon (corruption in politics) that spills over the political apparatus as a whole, standing over any ideological positions.
“Characters won’t be recognized by spectators. One can say that the plot belongs to a country from another galaxy,” claimed to media outlet “El País” Marcos Prado, who co-directed the series.
Despite the praised performance of many of its actors, good photography, and intriguing story, “The Mechanism” did not escape from negative repercussion.
The perspective through which the narrative was developed was subject to strong criticism from some groups – especially by left-wing partisans and supporters of Brazil’s former president, Luis Inácio Lula da Silva (Lula), who has been imprisoned for corruption accusations since April 7th.
According to these groups, the series not only takes sides, but distorts reality by insinuating Lula’s involvement in the corruption scheme. Padilha’s work has been considered irresponsible for portraying a complex investigation that is still in course through a biased lens, specially in an over polarized society.
Additionally, the fictional adaptation is believed to manipulate “less informed” spectators on the actual political panorama in Brazil – also taking into account it is election year in the country.
Among the most controversial parts of the series, it is worth noting one of the lines spoken by José Higino, the character who represents former president Lula: “é preciso acabar com essa sangria” (we must stanch the bleeding).
In the episode, the sentence is said in the context of the 2014 presidential elections, and is an explicit allusion to the statement of senator Romero Jucá (from MDB party), one of the names behind Dilma Rousseff’s impeachment, and also accused of corruption.
For José Padilha, the controversy around character José Higino’s line is a “silly debate”: “the series is a criticism of the system as a whole, not to this or that politician. All the facts are adapted, this is written at the opening of every episode. If Dilma knew how to read, we wouldn’t have this problem,” told Padilha to the outlet Observatório do Cinema.
On Twitter, Rousseff expressed profound dissatisfaction with the series: “the filmmaker lies, distorts, and promotes fake news. This is more than intellectual dishonesty. It’s typical from a pusillanimous who works for a version of facts that is afraid of the truth,” she said.
Social media was also used as the main platform to promote a boycott campaign against Netflix. According to the media outlet Brasil 247, the #deleteNetflix campaign negatively affected Netflix stocks on Nasdaq.
Considered by some as the Brazilian version of the American political series ‘House of Cards’, “The Mechanism” can be watched in 190 countries. There is still no confirmation on an upcoming second season.