I saw the Brazilian film ‘Alice Junior’ as part of Newfest, which is The New York Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, as part of the festival’s streaming choices. Directed by Gil Baroni, it’s a fun and hip movie about a young trans woman in a fish-out-of-water kind of film.
It stars Anna Clestino Mota, a real-life vlogger, as the titular character, who plays more or less a character same as her real life persona. Alice was a finalist in Brasil’s Next teen Top Model, and has a slew of followers online.
But when Alice’s father makes a decision to move them to a rural small town, her world is turned upside down. Imagine a city girl being moved to a farm in middle America, and you can kind of get the film’s set-up. You also probably won’t come to this film expecting deep narrative, but the wild ride it takes you is enjoyable enough. Mota is appealing and can hold your interest, even if the situations feel overly familiar. This is fun and sweet and mindless, and you need that sometimes.
Brasil, under the leadership of Jair Balsonaro, is less kind of the LGBTQIA community. Perhaps that is why there is a new wave of Brasilian queer cinema – they say art gets better with strife. From 2019 comes Greta, directed by Armando Praca, and it is a quiet, contemplative piece of filmmaking. The film centers around Pedro (Marco Nanini) who is an aging gay nurse. He takes care of his friend Daniela, a trans woman suffering from end stage renal disease. But one day, he helps a fugitive from the hospital escape to his house, and they develop a tender relation ship, At times, the film can be a challenging watch – you cringe at Pedro’s decisions, but I felt its overpowering take on loneliness, how sometimes when you are alone in life, you just cling to whatever that is that you gives you a sense of intimacy. The slow pace is deliberate and it took time to get into its groove, but by the end you will be all in. The film feels like a melancholy fado song, tinged with sadness and pain. It’s heartbreaking.
I chanced upon two films from two separate countries that are quite different from each other.
From Russia comes Viatcheslav Koturevskiy’s ‘Sibera and Him,’ about two men falling in love in the midst of Siberian country. A lot of people have compared this to Brokeback Mountain and I can see why – this is set in the open country as well, as two men travel to check on one’s grandmother, who hasn’t been answering her calls. But this is Putin’s Russia, and these men cannot be themselves, to very tragic results. I thought the film was slow moving, and even its scant running time felt long. But there was always something that caught your attention, and seeing barren Siberia felt very conducive to what the characters are feeling.
‘Cousins,’ (Primos) from Brasil, directed by Mauro Carvalho and Thiago Cazado, is much lighter compared to the Russian film above. In fact, it is quite joyous considering Brasil nowadays seem to be as restrictive, as far as gay rights, as Russia with its new homophobic President. Two distant cousins (one just out from prison) hang out at a house, and they just start to fall in love. In the beginning, there is not much conflict, but their religious neighbors rear their ugly heads after. But it is treated almost comically, and this really is one of those feel-good films. But, there isn’t much else here if you are looking for some depth. But sometimes all you need is two young actors with great chemistry and you’re good to go.
Karim Ainouz’s ‘Invisible Life’ is Brazil’s Official Entry for the Academy Awards, and it won the Un Certain Regard award at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. .Essentially, it’s a story about sisters who get separated and the film takes its sweet time in trying to get the two of them back together. The film is melodrama at its finest, for better or worse, and it can be frustrating at different levels – it is at times too slow, and there are some major holes in the plot at times. But somehow, I ended up really liking it – it packs some emotional depth, and is successful in making the viewer empathize and sympathize with the characters. It is also able to convey that unbreakable bond that siblings have with each other.
Bibi Ferreira was one of Brasil’s greatest divas and I recently chanced upon her album ‘Bibi Ferreira canta Sinatra,’ which was probably reissued because she passed away February of this year. Some internet searching place this album from a live show of hers from 2014, and indeed, her voice seem a little on the ‘mature’ side here, but it isn’t without character. Clearly, this woman knows how to relay the messages of these songs and have the experience to back it up. Obviously, my favorite track is a medley of the Brasilian songs: from Meditation to Quiet Nights to Agua de Beber. but I thought she was just as effective in singing standards, like ‘Night and Day,’ and ‘I Get A Kick Out Of You.’ Her theater background even comes in handy as she sings ‘Ol Man River,’ and by God it is gorgeous. She i a little bit of a discovery for me so know excuse me as I try to dig up more of her work.
I always love when a film goes deep into the heart and soul of a city and I think the film ‘Corpo Electrico’ (Body Electric) by Marcelo Caetano does that for the city of Sao Paolo. This film stars Kelner Macedo as Elias. he works for a clothing manufacturer company in the middle of the city as an assistant designer, and in his work interacts with the workers. He is told by the big bosses not to be too friendly with the lowly workers, but he ignores that. He parties and interacts with them. He is comfortable with his place in the world – he has an older lover who takes care of him – but through his interactions with these people he explores his sexuality and sensuality.
I have seen this film described as a ‘mood piece,’ designed to celebrate the diversity of Brasil. I know there are some discrimination by light and dark skinned Brasilians, but this film shows that there can be harmony amidst that. Elias shows that through his interactions with these people, he can embrace himself fully, and can better get in touch with his most authentic self. And that’s about it – there seems to be no other discernible plot here, as the film shows more a slice of Sao Paolo life more than anything else. Initially, that bothered me (is this film going anywhere, I ask myself) but there are times a film doesn’t need to. It showed me a glimpse of real life of real people, and that’s more than fine with me. Isn’t film a reflection of life anyway?
All this attention being give to Rio de Janeiro because of the Olympics made me want to visit ‘Rio I Love You,’ a movie I have been meaning to see for the longest time. The film is the third in the Cities Of Love series, after Paris and New York. Ten filmmakers have contributed shorts all centered around love in this city by the sea, and it looks like most of them have chosen to focus on the great things about Rio – the beautiful people, the lush greenery, the picturesque Sugarloaf Mountain, Christ the Redemptor. There are some I liked a lot: Jose Padilha’s contribution, with Ryan Kwanten as an Australian actor who climbs the Sugarloaf Mountain with his appointed driver (And this has a gay twist at the end) Guillermo Arriaga does one about a one-armed boxer that’s full of grit and heart. Nadine Labaki has a cute contribution about a little boy waiting by a pay phone for a al from jesus – and Harvey Keitel shows his soft side on that one. Koren Director Im has oen abotu prostitute vampires that seems out of place with the scenery, and Paolo Sorrentino’s mean-spirited one about a couple at the beach just read slight. All in all, though I wished the collection was more varied. I would have liked a contemporary piece abour how corrupted the government is, or a glimpse of life in the favela slums. But perhaps that is not the point of this collection, which I am guessing served as a promotional tie in with the Olympics.
For National Coming Out Day, I wanted to write about a movie that is in lien with today’s message. Do Lado De Fora (Boys In Brasil) is a movie from Brasil directed by Alexandre Carvalho, and is the story of four gay men coming to terms with coming out. The movie is book ended by the Sao Paulo Gay Pride Parade, one of the biggest in the world. (The last one had more than five million people in attendance) A group of friends make a pact that by the next pride parade, they would all be out. But of course there are complications. Vicente (Marcello Airoldi) needs to come out at work, as he is pretending he is married to a woman. Roger (Andre Bankoff) is married with a son, and he also finds out his wife is pregnant. Mauro (Luis Vaz) has over religious parents, and wants to be a drag queen. All these complications come to a head, and the story telling is a bit on the lazy side, but I don’t think one is meant to take this film too seriously. (The abrupt reaction of Mauro’s parents in the end is a bit jarring after all the conflict build up) And in this day and age, it seems somewhat dated, though one must take into consideration how Brasil is still a conservative and religious country. But it has a good message: Come Out, Come Out, Come Out, and I hope it inspired some Brasilians to do so.