Monday, January 24, 2022

Review: ‘Executive Order’ Takes a Poignant Look at Racism in a Dystopian Future [SXSW Online 2021]

Executive Order has been many years in the making according to director Lazaro Ramos, but its entry into the world couldn’t have come at a better time. With movements like Black Lives Matter at the forefront of the world’s mind, Executive Order addresses the matter of racism head on with a moving and poignant story the world needs to see.

In a future dystopian Brazil, the authoritarian government issues an order for all individuals of African descent to return to Africa, rightfully causing a rift between the Brazilian government and its black citizens resulting in an underground resistance movement. The film follows lawyer Antonio, his wife Capitu, and Antonio’s cousin Andre as they navigate this life altering new law. When the order is released and chaos ensues in the streets, Antonio and Andre are forced to seek refuge in their apartment or risk detection. A single order protects those who stay in their homes, and Antonio gains national notoriety after a video of their resistance goes viral. Meanwhile, Capitu finds an underground resistance planning to fight back and defend their right to remain in Brazil.

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Alfred Enoch shines in his first ever lead role in a feature film with a powerful performance as Antonio. The threat of immediate deportation to Africa if he leaves his apartment looms over Antonio as he wars with staying put or searching for Capitu, and Enoch’s emotional portrayal will leave viewers stunned. The moving portrayal is a testament to both the message of the movie and Enoch’s own ability to carry those emotions in his every moment on screen. The film’s message is only heightened by the equally brilliant performances of both Taís Araujo as Capitu and Seu Jorge as Andre. While Antonio is trapped with Andre in his apartment, Capitu locates an underground resistance where she meets some interesting individuals who help her find her way both within the group and for herself in the now uncertain world.

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While Executive Order is set in a futuristic dystopian Brazil, the film does a fantastic job of working in elements like the national attention such an order would get, the elements of social media and media coverage that lend Antonio a unique platform, and even speaks to the pandemic of today with Antonio and Andre forced to stay in their apartment. It’s a well executed film that has all the hallmarks of a big screen success. From excellent camera work to the soundtrack choices, Antonio, Capitu, and Andre’s journey opens the discourse on racism in a new way and the demand to defend one’s place in their own country.

For more on Executive Order, be sure to read our interview with director Lazaro Ramos here.

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