From Psychedelic Love to a Gender Terrorist: This Film Series Explores Brazil’s LGBTQ Cinema

Lead Photo: 'Bixa Travesty' image courtesy of Cinema Tropical
'Bixa Travesty' image courtesy of Cinema Tropical
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Admit it: LGBTQ mainstream fare in the US is not just paltry but rather bland. You’ve always had to look at the margins to find more prickly work tackling all the letters in that acronym. Or, if you wanted to be more adventurous, you had to look abroad. And while queer European indies still get most of the press, Latin American films focused on the LGBTQ community are finally making a play for their very own New Queer Cinema moment. Think not just of Chile’s A Fantastic Woman and Venezuela’s Desde allá but Mexico’s I Dream in Another Language and Cuba’s Santa & Andrés. Now, Cinema Tropical and The Museum of the Moving Image’ series “LGBTQ Brazil” aims to solidify that notion by focusing on Brazil’s contributions to this budding queer movement.

Organized by guest curator Ela Bittencourt, the weekend-long series is a perfect intro to that country’s contemporary LGBTQ directors and the forward-looking work they’re creating. The five features presented run the gamut from the provocative documentaries on self-described “gender terrorists” to lurid melodramas fronted by trans women.

If there’s one thing these films have in common is a desire to break out from generic molds. Ismael Caneppele’s Música para Quando as Luzes se Apagam (Music For When The Lights Go Out), for example, mixes real-life situations and persons with fictional elements to re-tell a touching coming out and coming-of-age tale with the help of a professional actress. Shot in 1:1 (think Instagram’s square aesthetic), this hybrid explores the possibilities of an intimate digital camera and explores what it means to tell one’s story.

Elsewhere, Sweet Amianto follows a trans woman who finds comfort in fantasy after being ditched by her boyfriend. Described as a “glam, psychedelic meditation on love, illness, and betrayal” as well as “a darkly funny, lyrical acid trip,” Uirá dos Reis and Guto Parente‘s project is unlike anything you’ve ever seen, with images flickering in and out of Amianto’s imagination and immersing us in her rose-colored world.

And then there’s Claudia Priscilla and Kiko Goifman’s Bixa TravestyPart documentary portrait of “gender terrorist” singer Linn da Quebrada, and part radical manifesto on femininity, Priscilla and Goifman’s project hopes to stir a revolution. With outfits that could be described as S&M Edward Scissorhands meets Cher and lyrics like “She has a way, an ass, breasts, and a woman’s cock” da Quebrada’s message is a roaring call to arms for genderqueers everywhere. It’s no surprise it won the Teddy Award at the Berlin Film Festival, which annually goes to the best LGBTQ film playing the Euro fest.

In addition to showing Tavinho Teixeira’s Sol Alegria, a satire on contemporary conservative Brazilian politics, and Carlos Nader’s A Paixão de JL (Passion of JL), a bittersweet archival documentary on artist José Leonilson who died of AIDS in 1993, “LGBTQ Brazil” will also be screening a number of short films ahead of each feature film. Together, they paint a picture of a vibrant queer cinematic community that deserves a broader audience. Here’s hoping New York City delivers.

LGBTQ Brazil” runs at the Museum of the Moving Image July 28 – 29, 2018.