Those who love film will have little to complain about this month. Just after the São Paulo International Film Festival (the ‘Mostra’) comes to an end, the city hosts the 20th edition of the Festival Mix Brasil de Cultura da Diversidade (Mix Brasil Festival of Cultural Diversity), featuring more than 130 LGBT-themed feature films from around the world.
‘The festival came about by chance,’ says João Federici, who alongside André Fischer is the curator and creator of the event. That chance event happened in 1993, when Federici was asked by a Brazilian event organiser living in New York to dig up some Brazilian LGBT-themed films, to be shown at a festival. With a limited selection available, Federici and Fischer asked their friends to create short films. The result was twelve original shorts and the birth of one of São Paulo’s most interesting annual festivals.
Short films are still very much part of the festival, shown in a series of well curated categories and starring in the festival’s own version of the Gong Show, presented by the actress Marisa Orth. In it, films of up to 5 minutes’ length are shown to an audience that, gladiator style, has the power to decide whether or not the film should be shown in its entirety.
This year, theatre also joins the programme for the first time – look out for the play Sob a Luz do Lampião da Esquina (‘Under the light of the Lamp-post’), which tells the story of Brazilian newspaper Lampião da Esquina – the first to talk about sexual diversity during the late-1970s.
But feature films still form the bulk of the festival’s programme, which kicks off with the Belgian film Noordezee, Texas (No Caminho das Dunas, in Portuguese), by director Bavo Defurne. The film tells the story of a shy boy, neglected by his mother, who had always dreamed of becoming a beauty queen. Now a teenager, he struggles with an unrequited love for his neighbour.
‘The film was chosen because it addresses LGBT issues very subtly,’ explains Federici. ‘There are so many great films in the programme,’ he adds, ‘but we always try to open the festival with one that isn’t too heavy.’ The 2011 edition of the festival began with Tomboy, a charming film whose protagonist, a young girl who moves to a new town with her family, pretends to be a boy.
The festival’s diversity theme goes beyond sexual orientation to include distinct ages, cultures and religions. What’s it like to be gay in a predominantly Islamic country? Or during childhood? And in old age? More than 200 shorts address these and other issues. In the categories ‘The Other Side of Islam’, ‘Empowered Women’, ‘From 8 to 80’ and ‘Children’s Programme’, the films will be followed by debates featuring special guests.
Some films are free, such as those shown at the recently opened Museu da Diversidade in República metrô station, where every day, from 6-8pm, 47 Brazilians shorts will be shown one after another. Other events feature a very special discount: when you go to buy your tickets for any one of the paid films, just tell the seller, ‘sou gay’ (‘I’m gay’) or ‘sou simpatizante’ (‘I’m gay-friendly’), and you’ll pay half-price admission.
The festival takes place at CineSESC and other cinemas citywide. Check out the full programme at mixbrasil.org.br. Foreign films will have Portuguese subtitles.
Top 5 LGBT films
In Iran, the friends Atafeh and Shireen become lovers. Atafeh’s brother, a former drug addict who is now fervently religious, may put the girls’ relationship at risk.
Circumstance is at 5pm, 9 Nov and 7pm, 12 Nov at CineSESC
Dir. Maryam Keshavarz, France/USA/Iran, 2011. Nikohl Boosheri, Sarah Kazemy, Soheil Parsa and Reza Sixo Safari. 107 min.
Call Me Kuchu
This documentary follows David Kato, the first openly gay man in Uganda, during his last year alive. He was brutally murdered in his home in 2011.
Call Me Kuchu is at 7pm, 13 Nov at CineSESC, 8pm, 15 Nov at Espaço Itaú de Cinema 3
Dir. Katherine Fairfax Wright and Malika Zouhali-Worrall, USA/Uganda, 2012. Documentary. 90 min.
A young Muslim woman from a small village goes to the big city and finds that her father (Donny Damara) is a transvestite prostitute. Damara won the award for best actor at the Asian Film Awards.
Lovely Man is at 5.45pm, 9 Nov at Espaço Itaú de Cinema 4
Dir. Teddy Soeriaatmadja, Indonesia, 2011. Donny Damara and Raihaanun. 76 min.
An elderly lesbian couple head towards Canada and pick up an attractive young guy, possibly a gigolo, on their way.
Cloudburst is at 9pm, 13 Nov, 5pm, 14 Nov and 7pm, 15 Nov at CineSESC
Dir. Thom Fitzgerald, USA/Canada, 2011. Olympia Dukakis, Brenda Fricker, Ryan Doucette and Kristin Booth. 93 min.
Notre Paradis (Our Paradise)
Vassilli is a male prostitute who becomes conflicted when his clients start to think he’s too old. Outraged, he goes on a killing spree. Both actor Stéphane Rideau who plays Vassilli and the director will be at the festival.
Our Paradise is at 9pm, 9 Nov and 5pm, 11 Nov at CineSESC; 4pm, 14 Nov at Espaço Itaú de Cinema 3
Dir. Gaël Morel, France, 2011. Stéphane Rideau, Dimitri Durdaine and Béatrice Dalle. 100 min.