Executive Order premiered at SXSW 2021, a debut film for director Lazaro Ramos. However, it was not his first time on a set. Ramos has an extensive filmography as an actor in film and the theater. I had a chat with Ramos about his film, his career, and what it means to be a black creator these days.
“This is my first movie as a director. I’m an actor from, since I was 10 years old. And [Executive Order] is my first step behind the cameras. I wanted to make a movie to touch the people.”
Sharing Stories of His Brazil
He talked about his extensive career and how that made him want to tell some stories of his own, of his own experience. Ramos says that he co-wrote and directed the Afrofuturistic film Executive Order because he wanted to create something that would resonate with the people. He wanted to reach not just the people in his region of Brazil, but share stories about his culture with audiences all over the world.
“…[I] am only one voice, because here in Brazil, we have many, many, many good filmmakers, and writers and script writers. But with this movie I really wanted to make something special. That’s why I based [it in] comedy, thriller, and drama because I think we are more than just one subject. And [there are] more words than to have one way to tell a story.”
Just like Blackness in the U.S. is not a monolith, Ramos says not all Afro-Brazilian cultures are like his. So, he always stopped short of speaking in generalities about Blackness in the country — as we do here in the U.S. But, the world can get to know an understand enough in his film to become interested in how Blackness is experienced throughout the country. He wanted people to see that Brazil is so much more than we see on the nightly news.
Creating an Experience that Resonates Worldwide
“That’s why there are many different characters, one of them [is a] journalist, another a lawyer, a doctor, and maids. We have many [roles] because we really wants to talk about the Brazilian diversity. Because it’s not fair to talk about this country, just with two things — with Carnival and the bad things that politicians do. We are [not all] of that. That’s why this movie has so many subjects, because we try to [say] ‘well, we are most of the bad things and are [also more than] just the one single, man’s movement.’ We are many things.”
Executive Order is about an attorney played by Albert Enoch (How to Get Away with Murder) who is fighting the new laws comin g down that seek to push black or “high melanated” people out of the country. They want to send people who look Black, to Africa! The film is set in the future, but leans in some of the many racist practices that thrive today.
Ramos uses science fiction to explore the racism, colorism, and microaggressions that he and Enoch have experienced. In doing so, he touches on some very weighty topics that Black people all over the world can identify with, despite the cultural differences.
Proving Why Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity Matter
To tell authentic stories of Blackness in the most authentic manner, the storytellers need to be Black or somehow aided by Blackness. There needs to be diversity, inclusion, and equity behind the camera as well as in the casting. Ramos proves that in creating Executive Order with a cast and crew that is 90% Black.
“…many talented professionals from the cinema are here in Brazil and this movie has a really special crew. The cinematographer, the costumer designer, the sound designer, are black people. In this movie, we have 90% of the cast and crew, black — black persons. That’s something huge and really special for my country. That’s because I desire to work with those incredible professionals to tell a story. That’s it.”
Although he is modest, the diversity is his cast and crew is also a feat that most American directors cannot manage without problems with the studio.
Much More to Come
Ramos will continue to tell his stories and sharing his cultural experience with the world. The goal is to make them really empathize with the weight Blackness has carried for so long.
“I want my audience feel tortured for this movie, for our existence. And understand that we [don’t have] just our pain. Understand, we have more than our pain, and we can change more than our pain. We can change the world if we work together. The end of the movie is talking about [that]. That’s what I want. I really don’t know what my audience will feel with this movie. But it’s this is my strongest desire.”
Executive Order premiered at SXSW 2021. Watch for viewing opportunities near you.