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Review | The Society of Fear reflects how humanity and politics use fear as control and power

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Film seen at the Rio 2022 Film Festival.

October 30 will be crucial in deciding whether the country will remain under the control of fear and hatred or whether it will once again become a democratic and tolerant territory for all cultures. Fear, a natural instinct of all conscious living beings, is something inherent in all of us, however, awareness of its existence and, therefore, control over it can be harmful and often irreversible. Maybe that’s why we talk about it so little. This is why the documentary ‘Sociedade do Medo’, which will premiere next Thursday, 27, is so fundamental this month.

In just over an hour, documentary filmmaker and director Adriana L. Dutra seeks answers to a very simple question: what is fear? To this end, it organizes interviews with several experts on the subject, including thinker and indigenous leader Ailton Krenak, councilor Benny Briolly, MP Talíria Petrone, Globonews journalist Flávia Oliveira, priest Júlio Lancellotti, as well as thinkers other parts of the world (Tokyo, New York, Amsterdam, Los Angeles, Paris, London), including professors David Carrol and Jason Stanley and economist Linda Yueh.

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The screenplay is constructed from the answers given by the interviewees, stitching together the director’s thread of thought as he tries to understand what this feeling is that crosses us. The answers range from more scientific observations (fear is a natural animal instinct) to more practical analyzes of everyday life (the fear black bodies feel is not the same as the fear white bodies feel) . In this context, the examples and reflections given by the Brazilian interviewees go far beyond the academic tone of the international guests; although the study of fear is important in technical terms, it must be translated for the population to understand it, otherwise the knowledge is limited to the academy.

In its essay, ‘Society of Fear’ is shot through with the widespread fear that has hit us all in recent years – the corona virus pandemic – and has proven in practice how much knowledge and ignorance on a subject generates fear, and, in its counterpart, power and control. In other words, those who have the knowledge and the solution for a certain subject (the virus) felt less fear than those who had to wait for the vaccine. Therefore, the fear essay is also a study of the political use of fear to gain control and social power.

‘Society of Fear’ is an important and also illuminating film on the political trajectory of the past decade, how this sense of freezing has driven individuals to power who have promised a supposed specter of security, offered by a control group which generates the same fear that they fight. On the eve of the second round, it’s a direct documentary on how we, all of us, must not be taken over by fear, not be controlled by fear, whether in our lives or politically.

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