Seizing the occasion: history and nation in Eduardo Coutinho's Metalworkers

This article looks at the convergence of history and nation in the documentary Metalworkers/Peões (Eduardo Coutinho, 2004). The catalyst for Coutinho's project was Brazil's 2002 presidential race and the candidacy of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, a former lathe operator and labor leader who was elected president toward the end of that same year. Metalworkers, however, does not focus on the presidential candidate and his campaign. Instead, it seeks out the past by means of a series of interviews with those who participated, under Lula's leadership, in the labor movement that surged in the late 1970s and challenged the country's military regime at the time. Inspired by performance-oriented theories, the article proposes that the film's particular encounter with the past offers an alternative to conventional representations of the nation and its history.