What foments political change? What makes a people realize they deserve a say in how their lives are run? This documentary convinces us the answer is combining politics with football and rock ’n roll.
In 1984, millions of Brazilians took to the streets to call for the direct election of its president by popular vote, rather than electoral college. These protests took place under a military dictatorship and police-state, where 4 people standing together on a street corner would be forced to disperse. The government claimed to allow freedom of speech, but it was subject to pervasive censorship of journalism, banners, and songs.
Director Pedro Asberg shows how the team Corinthians may have been the inspiration behind the protests. They led by example. They attributed their championships and new winning ways to their deep, nourishing system of Democracia Corinthiana, where the players voted on all team decisions and played for joy. They urged fans to vote and advocated for the direct election. At one final, the players carried out a banner saying “Ganhar ou perder, mas sempre com democracia” (Win or lose, but always with democracy).
Sócrates was the most recognizable leader of the group, a tall bearded player with a headband, a pockmarked face, a medical degree, and captain of the 1982 World Cup team. After scoring, he raised his fist in a Black Power salute. His teammate Wladimir represented the Black worker. Striker Walter Casagrande — just 19 years old and who loved rock ’n roll — his fiery passion on the field inspired the youth of Brazil. Sociologist Adílson Monteiro Alves was the young football director who encouraged team democracy. However, the film points out that the media and other teams derided it as Corinthian Anarchy. Both they and Socrates knew it would only work if the team kept winning.
The music and the soccer
At the same time, rock ’n roll had a major influence on the democratic movement, with rebellious lyrics that became anthems for protests, and cacophonous music that was the opposite of samba. Asberg spent 4 years putting his film together, and much of the time and expense was in procuring the music rights.
The football clips in this film are extensive and outstanding in showcasing the talents of the team as well as the support of fans. It makes it easy to connect how the fervor in a stadium (or at a concert) can lead to mass protests in the streets.
I apologize that I can’t really compose a review that does justice to this film without writing a thesis. Many articles have been written about Corinthian Democracy, much of it glowing and hazy. Asberg, on the other hand, interviews all the key players (capturing Sócrates on film a year before his death) and provides much more behind the scenes historical detail.
Democracia em Preto e Branco is a joy to watch, and I encourage all of you to take the time to get a unique perspective on what was Democracia Corinthiana. It’s not exactly what all those articles simplify.
I have reviewed a number of soccer films that show how politicians use sport as the opiate of the masses and to curry favor from the voters. There are films that show how supporters groups become fighters against regimes. But this is the only film I have seen where the players reverse the direction of influence and inspire a country to act against the politicians.
Sadly, it doesn’t work and everyone moves on. But for one brief shining moment, there was Camelot. In Sao Paulo.
Soccer Movie Mom Rating = 10
- Released: 2014-10-18 (Brazil)
- In Portuguese with English sub-titles
- Original title is Democracia em Preto e Branco
- English title is Democracy in Black and White also known as Black and White Democracy
- Director: Pedro Asberg
- Stars: Socrates , Wladimir , Walther Casagrande , Adílson Monteiro Alves
- Watch the Trailer (in Portuguese, no English sub-titles)
- Watch the Movie on Vimeo (fee) with English sub-titles
- Film facebook page