A vast corruption investigation in Brazil that has toppled businessmen and lawmakers, haunted two presidencies and captivated the media, debuts as a Netflix series this week, long before anyone can predict how the real-life probe will end.
With “The Mechanism,” director Jose Padilha, best known for “Narcos” and “Elite Squad”, hopes to remind viewers that corruption in his native Brazil is not the fault of any particular politician or party.
“Brazil, and even the foreign press, has fallen prey to an ideological battle that doesn’t have much to do with the real world,” Padilha said in a phone interview.
“There really is a mechanism that creates the logical structure of politics here,” he said. “The series is trying to take a position that is non ideological.”
“The Mechanism,” opens a decade before so-called Operation Car Wash with federal police in southern Brazil investigating money laundering in 2003 and failing to catch a key suspect.
They eventually unveil a kickback scheme between politicians, construction companies and Brazil’s state-run oil company – called Petrobras in real life and Petrobrasil in the series.
While prosecutors and judges have gained global fame for their assault on impunity, Padilha’s series focuses on the lesser-known police work.
Padilha said one of the main characters, police agent Verena Cardoni, is modeled on agent Erika Marena, whose work led to the first arrest of a Petrobras executive. She told Reuters in 2015 that “Car Wash” would be Brazil’s biggest-ever money laundering probe with global consequences, which proved true.
Brazilians have grown fatigued of the investigation, with its daily headlines igniting endless political bickering on social media and elsewhere.
“We can’t blame the messenger,” Padilha said. “The problem is Brazilians are reacting in the worst possible way to the truth – they are splitting in the middle, they are becoming radical from the right or left,” he said.
The investigation is likely to loom large over Brazil’s October presidential election, which could see an unorthodox candidate, like the right-wing Congressman Jair Bolsonaro, win. Padilha said he was holding out hope a moderate, honest, non-traditional candidate would come forward.
“The Mechanism,” set for release on Friday, was written by screenwriter Elena Soarez and based on a book by Vladimir Netto.
Asked how many seasons were planned, Padilha said “My intention is to finish this when corruption ends, so it’s gonna go a pretty long time if it’s up to me.”