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Berlinale Blogger 2018 Infiltration of gender roles

Bixa Travesty
Bixa Travesty | Photo: Nube Abe

“Bixa Travesty” (Tranny Fag) documents the life of the Brazilian trans artist Linn da Quebrada and her passionate fight against racism, homophobia and for the construction of trans-identity.

By Camila Gonzatto

By using concert excerpts, archive images, and showing numerous intimate moments with friends and family, the Brazilian documentary filmmakers Claudia Priscilla and Kiko Goifman have made a multi-faceted film about the activist Linn da Quebrada. In an interview, the directors talk about gender identities in Brazil and their understanding of documentary films.

Linn deals in the film with gender issues and speaks about transvestism in relation to femininity. How do you see the construction of gender identities in Brazil?

Claudia Priscilla: Brazil is the country where most trans people and homosexuals are killed and, at the same time, it is the country where the demand for films with trans people on RedTube is greatest. An absurd paradox. For some time now there’s been a group of singers like Linn who are a bit more visible. There exists a very big, very beautiful universe that doesn’t appeal just to an LGBT audience. Something is changing. Even if it’s not yet a revolution, a voice can be heard. In the movie Linn is invested with the power of the narrative role and so exists as a person. And we begin to see Linn with this desire and this understanding, which leads to respect and visibility. When she sings “um pau de mulher” (a woman’s penis), that’s significant and exemplary. It’s about Linn’s body and no longer about someone who imitates the ideal of a woman. There’s a new framework for thinking about body and gender. Linn gives very affirmative expression to this.

Kiko Goifman: We’re currently experiencing a very conservative movement, very strong and extremely right-wing. In Brazil, plays and exhibitions are being censored. It’s not that trans people are getting more room; they’re fighting for it with a lot of power and a lot of argument. It’s a fight. There are statistics that 90 per cent of trans women are forced at some point to work as prostitutes. Transsexuals aren’t hired. We wanted to put together a trans team, but we couldn’t find people because they’re excluded from the formal labor market. So we decided on a women’s team. It was the only feasible path we could take in the discourse against white alpha males such as Linn conducts. Another statistic gives the life expectancy of trans persons in Brazil at 35 years. That’s less than half the average life expectancy, which is 75 years.

Bixa Travesty Bixa Travesty | Photo: Nube Abe What is especially important to you when shooting a documentary?

Kiko Goifman: When we’re working with only a few protagonists, establishing intimacy is extremely important, if only so that statements don’t always sound alike. It’s also important to draw up a schedule that leaves room for chance and discoveries. Moreover, it’s fundamental to put together a team of creative people and also to allow creativity. We want to listen to others, not just the protagonists, but also the team. Finally, we engage in extensive discussions in advance about the film and look at a great many excerpts and samples.

Claudia Priscilla: We have a basic premise: the life of the main character is bigger than the film. Nobody is sacrificed; we pay close attention to this limit. Making a film about someone doesn’t justify disrespect.

This is an edited and shortened version of an interview with Claudia Priscilla and Kiko Goifmann. You can find the entire interview here.