Among Netflix’s most watched series since its debut in Argentina two weeks ago, “Vosso Reino” —also available in Brazil— has angered evangelical leaders in the neighboring country and sparked a debate over the links between religion and politics. They also made a point of differentiating the Argentine reality from the Brazilian one.
In the first season, the plot builds on the murder, during the campaign, of a presidential candidate, who was stabbed to death. After the crime, an evangelical pastor (played by Diego Peretti), from the fictional Church of the Kingdom of Light, leaves the vice-champion and takes over the electoral race.
For Brazilians, it will be impossible not to relate to the attack suffered by Jair Bolsonaro in 2018. But there are more similarities, with interference from the intelligence services in power, corruption, the complicity of the Judiciary with the powerful and the neglect of whistleblowers with few resources.
The script is by filmmaker Marcelo Piñeyro (“Kamchatka”), who also signs the direction, and writer Claudia Piñeiro, who guarantee: the series is a fiction.
“When we were writing, we thought it was a dystopian story, we felt closer to the ‘Handmaid’s Tale’ series than to ‘House of Cards,'” Piñeyro tells UOL. “But the newspapers brought news all the time from different parts of the world that had to do with what we had written, so we said: if we don’t hurry, we’ll end up making a documentary.”
According to him, the idea of stabbing the candidate was on paper before the attack on Bolsonaro and the project was presented to Netflix also before the Brazilian election.
“When we were writing, I went to São Paulo and, in a conversation with friends, I heard about Bolsonaro for the first time. In the conversation —and I don’t want to disrespect anyone— he seemed like a picturesque character in Brazilian politics, totally marginal. Four or five months later, he became president,” he says.
Delayed by the pandemic, the recent launch generated immediate reactions in Argentina. The harshest of these was a statement from the Christian Alliance of Evangelical Churches in Argentina (Aciera), which congregates around 15,000 churches, criticizing the screenwriter, a well-known activist for the legalization of abortion in the country.
The text accuses Piñeiro of trying to “create in the popular imagination the perception” that evangelical leaders “only have ambitions of power or money” and of trying to label them as “‘followers of Bolsonaro’, ‘right-wing reactionaries’ and agents of the bad”.
The text was received by the artistic and political community as an attack on the screenwriter and an attempt at indirect censorship. With the broad repudiation and messages of solidarity with her, the pronouncement ended up being taken off the air. But the controversy continued.
“We are not Bolsonaro nor do we want to be,” said Christian Hooft, vice president of institutional relations at Aciera, after the negative repercussions.
“There are no evangelicals here in Argentina who look like Bolsonaro,” said Cynthia Hotton, an evangelical who will run for election as a deputy this year, on a TV show.
To UOL, Hooft repeated that “the Argentine Evangelical Church is not the Brazilian one”. “Argentina does not have a Bolsonaro and we don’t even want to have one, at least in Aciera’s view. We are not in this line of a church linked to political partisanship,” he said, noting that there is an “error of perception” about the danger of an evangelical advance and that the series “is a fiction, but it still has a message”.
The pastor cites the wide participation of evangelicals in marches against the legalization of abortion, but says that “it is too simplistic to say that, because they are against the law, evangelicals are on the right or on the far right.” “They are also against human rights abuses, immigrant rights and environmental deterioration, which is a more left-wing agenda. There are Peronist and anti-Peronist evangelicals, Kirchnerists and anti-Kirchnerists,” he explains.
Hotton, on the other hand, spoke as a future candidate, saying that evangelicals did not feel represented by politics and that, therefore, they were not restricted to temples. He tried to dissociate himself from Bolsonaro, but he has already said he wants a religious bench in the Argentine Congress, as happens in Brazil.
For the theologian and communicator Claudia Florentin, the association with Brazil was quick because the country is seen as the greatest example of the support of evangelicals to a ruler, “not only those of a neo-Pentecostal character, but also of Protestant churches of a more historic character, as happened with some employees that Bolsonaro appointed, who were from Presbyterian churches”, he says, also citing the presence of Pastor Damares Alves in charge of a ministry.
Florentin, who is a feminist and has been a pastor for 12 years, says that there are some Argentine provinces with a strong evangelical presence, but that there is little concrete data to say that there is influence at the national level.
“There are places where they have employees, there are legislators and female legislators who are having an impact, even though there is no evangelical bloc,” he explains.
“I think there’s not a big impact on politics and that’s more what the evangelical churches wanted to happen. That’s why it’s constantly said that ‘we’re 15% of the population.’ If you have to say that all the time, I think wants to mark that it has potential,” he says.
About the church portrayed in the series, she says she hoped to find something closer to what she’s familiar with, but that she saw “a salad of religious manifestations that has nothing to do with being an evangelical” she knows. “But then I came to terms with the fact that it’s a fiction,” he says.
Today here in Argentina there are some characters who are like that, who seem to be creating a comic program, and we shouldn’t underestimate because they grow up based on a speech very full of sowing hatred, resentment, fears and mainly taking everything to the emotional terrain, why not they only talk about the worst of human beings, but also about other things, but mainly trying to remove all possibility of rationality from a debate.
Marcelo Piñeyro, director of “Vosso Reino”
Screenwriter Claudia Piñeiro says that the intensity of the current debate shows “that society wanted to talk about it”. “If everyone is talking about this, it’s because this issue was present and the subject matters,” he says.
According to her, “people continued the discussion of how churches influence through politics on the agendas of far-right parties to curtail people’s rights and so many other things seen in the series, such as political intelligence services.”
You don’t know how many messages I received from people who were 20 years in an evangelical church, and were left without all their money, their house, some told me they were abused, and there were those who said they went through worse things than what we count.
Claudia Piñeiro, screenwriter, about messages she received after the release
The director adds that the series proposes a reflection beyond evangelical churches, addressing supranational mechanisms behind an attempt at conservative restoration, to increasingly preserve the concentration of political and economic power.
“The series tries to reflect on what is happening in the world, and each country has its characteristics. It’s not a series against Bolsonaro, I don’t live in Brazil, I don’t think about him every day, and Argentina has enough problems. it is having an impact in Europe, Korea, Turkey, because it sets contemporary directions with which people begin to reflect according to their reality. Saying that the series speaks of Brazil is a way of shifting the focus”, concludes Piñeyro.