My regular reader will know that I’m always looking for films that say something about where we are now; Lázaro Ramos’ political satire Executive Order is torn from today’s headlines, and makes uncomfortable viewing for anyone who has been following the plug-hole circling spiral of news. What starts out with genuine comic verve soon heads towards a Children of Men dystopian nightmare, and Executive Order is to be recommended to those who seek modern cinema that offers more than numb-skull escapism.
‘I used to be black…’ offers lawyer Antonio (Alfred Enoch); now he’s ‘high-melanin’, which means that he’s of Afro-African origin and therefore subject to deportation from his home country of Brazil. The government have launched an executive order that aims to repatriate all ‘high-melanins’, and Antonio ends up bunkered-down in his Rio de Janeiro flat with his cousin Andre (The Life Aquatic’s charismatic singing star Seu Jorge). Will Andre end up ‘the last black man left in Brazil’ or will he end up surrendering to the authorities?
There’s reflections here of the UK government plans under Boris Johnson to send migrants on flights to Rwanda; arguably the plan that finally broke resistance to deposing him as PM. But we’re teetering on the brink of authoritarianism, and Executive Order chillingly lays out how a government might casually institute racist ideology under the pretext of ‘reducing viruses’. This removal of what one character calls ‘the fabric of what protected us from ourselves ‘ seems to be a worldwide issue; if you are of the wrong colour, sex, religious beliefs or intellectual disposition, you’ve got good reason to worry as a minority in 2022.
Fortunately, Executive Order doesn’t go down the full dystopia route, and stepping away from violence is a key theme; notably, when Antonio and Andre get held at gunpoint, they refuse to attack their assailant, an act which later goes viral. There’s also a few surreal, throwaway shots that really land; a patient abandoned on an operating table, or a vision of how a dance-hall quickly became a makeshift hospital. The world is burning right now, and it’s not just the temperature; Romos’ film does a good job taking the temperature of a world aflame.
Signature Entertainment presents Executive Order on Digital Platforms 18th July 2022.