‘Your Turn’ Gives Voice to Youth Protest

TIFF Next Wave doc is provocative but disorderly ruckus

6 mins read

Your Turn [Espero tua ( Re )volta]
(Brazil, 93 min.)
Dir. Eliza Capai

If Petra Costa took audiences to the edge of democracy with her Oscar-nominated portrait of Brazilian politics, then Eliza Capai throws viewers into the thick of the storm with Your Turn. This dizzying political doc offers a participatory glimpse at the student movements that rippled throughout Brazil during the past decade. They’re not related to the impeachment of former President Dilma Rousseff that audience saw in The Edge of Democracy, but the stories intersect.

Your Turn is all about the intersections of political movements and the criss-crossed wire of the film’s many threads are often more confusing than illuminating. Capai’s serpentine study of the crisis benefits from as much prior knowledge as one can bring to it as possible. Anyone who just watched Edge of Democracy is in luck. However, Your Turn isn’t done any favours as a film experience in the shadow of Costa’s doc. A great political circus doesn’t innately make for a great film.

Your Turn nevertless has many laudable elements that will enrage and inspire young audiences. The film features a non-linear narrative that charts waves of the student movement as protests escalate into occupation and radicalization. Three speakers—Marcela, Lukas, and Nayara—guide audiences through the movement’s permutations. The protests are a response to several factors shaping the future of Brazil’s next generation. For one, a five-cent fare hike on public transit promises to devastate the working class. While an extra nickel a ride might not sound steep, Marcela notes that it’s a hefty price for families from the favelas that are lucky to earn $250 per month. Many Brazilians already have to choose between food and shelter, she says, so any extra expenses add to a heavy burden.

The students see the fruits of their labour as their protests sway public opinion and motivate politicians to enact change. Capai’s film shows politicians backtrack and capitulate upon realizing that they can’t ignore people simply because they’re too young to vote. A voice is a voice.

The youths harness this energy as they fight to reform the education system in later years. As they occupy their schools, the movement teaches students valuable opportunities they fail to learn through their curricula. Assembly, protest, and mobilization are not part of their formal lessons, but the teens argue they should be.

Capai and fellow cinematographer Bruno Miranda deliver some extraordinary footage. Your Turn has startling and provocative images from the front lines of the movement. It witnesses police brutality and systematic discrimination firsthand as the police target youths, generally students of colour, with violence that is grossly disproportionate to the actions of the protestors. The disorienting editing by Capai and Yuri Amaral, however, both accentuates and disrupts the images’ power. Little changes as Your Turn skips back and forth between protests at random. On one hand, the protests have immediate consequences. On the other, they reveal how the youth movement struggles to articulate to the political establishment the interconnected values that the protestors feel are at stake.

There’s a lot to admire about Your Turn as the students reflect upon the intersections of different movements in the student revolt. Lessons of feminism, racial equality, and LGBTQ rights become intertwined in the fight for more classrooms and improved learning conditions. The tag-team trio of narrators, moreover, evokes the tensions of the youth movement as the speakers fight for the spotlight. The participatory of Capai’s film harnesses the energy and contradictions of the youth movement.

Therein lies Your Turn’s struggle. As much as the three narrators are an asset, they often prove distracting with coy reflections and juvenile antics that undermine the movement’s authority. Your Turn is frequently incoherent as the narrators elbow each other out of the way. Speakers step in and out of the voiceover spotlight as Capai flips the storyline around like a Rubik’s cube. Your Turn weaves between protests, movements, occupations, and years in a disorderly ruckus, which often muddles the essay as it makes the youths seem as if they’re protesting for protest’s sake. The narrators playfully shift and shuffle the squares, but the pieces of the puzzle don’t align to a coherent whole. While the rambunctious spirit of the film will inevitably motivate young viewers, there’s a valuable lesson between the lines that shows how any movement without logic and order is destined to fail.

Your Turn screens at TIFF Next Wave on Saturday, Feb. 15.

Courtesy of TIFF

Pat Mullen is the publisher of POV Magazine. He holds a Master’s in Film Studies from Carleton University where his research focused on adaptation and Canadian cinema. Pat has also contributed to outlets including The Canadian Encyclopedia, Paste, That Shelf, Sharp, Xtra, and Complex. He is the vice president of the Toronto Film Critics Association and an international voter for the Golden Globe Awards.

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