Universum History: Leopoldina Habsburg – The Birth of Modern Brazil

Satel Film/ORF/ZDF Arte

September 7, 2022 marked the 200th anniversary of Brazil’s independence from the colonial power Portugal. “Universum History: Leopoldina Habsburg – The Birth of Modern Brazil” tells the story of the genesis of the Brazilian republic and uses the life of the “mother of the country,” Leopoldine von Habsburg, to illuminate the path leading from the colony to the empire and finally to the military coup and republic in 1889.

Freedom, participation and human rights, enshrined in a constitution. These words and the ideas behind them have terrified the European nobility since the French Revolution. The trauma of the Revolution – the end of the certainty surrounding the divine right – shapes the period of the Napoleonic Wars, the Congress of Vienna, it shapes the politics of the entire 19th century, triggers the process of decolonization and accompanies the independence movements in South America.

In 1809, Portuguese King Joao VI, fleeing Napoleon, moves his court overseas, to his colony of Brazil. Joao VI makes Brazil a kingdom in 1815, putting it on a de facto par with Portugal, which costs him power in his country of origin. His son, Pedro I, finally makes himself emperor over the country and renounces Portugal altogether. The first step toward independence – but Brazil still has a long way to go before the republic is proclaimed in 1889.

This path is closely linked to the story of a Habsburg princess – Leopoldine, daughter of Francis I, who was the first European princess to be “sold” overseas. Brazilians see her as the mother of their country, because without her political work and without her influence on her husband, the later Emperor Pedro I, the former colony would probably have disintegrated into republics shaken by civil war in the 1920s and would not exist in its present form.

The film by Katharina Heigl is a co-production of Satel Film, ORF and ZDF Arte, supported by Creative Europe – MEDIA Programme of the European Union, Fernsehfonds Austria, Filmfonds Wien, the Province of Lower Austria and VAM.

First broadcast: November 1, 2022, 9:50 p.m., ORF 2

with the support of Creative Europe –
MEDIA Programme of the European Union

Fanny Altenburger, Haris Ademovic, Erwin Steinhauer, Martin Gruber, Anna Lang and Gabriela Garcia-Vargas can be seen in re-enacted scenes.

Katherina Heigl – Writer & Director
Thea Adlung – DOP “reenacted scenes”
Matthias Trinkl – DOP “documentary & interrviews”