It is 2010. Black Brazilians are navigating the film industry in their so-called motherland, yet they remain their own islands. There is an unspoken apartheid. For the most part we are lone bodies in white-dominated settings, despite the fact that people who look like us constitute most of the population. Film festivals, which have the potential to be a space for sponsoring an array of representations of the lives that make up society, remain largely pale: our experiences are either rendered invisible or morphed into violent representations. We are thirsty.
When you look at a film screen, it’s deserted—or rather filled with blinding whiteness. You look past the screen and find only white hands holding cameras, white voices screaming “action” and “cut,” white fingers placed on mousepads that cut and paste images and sounds, white silhouettes determining what will remain as history and what will be forgotten. And yet you feel you have a history and a past that has been hidden from you. You know there are others like you, people who want to reclaim film as a legitimate space to inhabit. But whiteness rewards only those whose Blackness is perceived as nonthreatening, isolating them within white walls and discouraging mutual identification with the scarce bodies like theirs.
Now cut to ten years later. We’re not alone, and survival strategies have been developed, deployed, and shared. We have interlocutors and people who serve as our mirrors. The films we were looking for have begun to be made. Now we can talk about them and develop a circuit where they are at the center, as we continue to discover new things to crave.
This is the shift in the landscape of Brazilian cinema that I and other researchers, scholars, programmers, producers, artists, and other professionals have been witnessing. A central part of this advancement are queer stories told by Black filmmakers. In my previous essay for volume one of Seen, “Traviarcado! Queer Intersections in Contemporary Black Brazilian Cinema,” I delved into unapologetic representations of LGBTQ+ lives, particularly in two films: Perifericu (2019) and Bonde (2019). Queerness was historically seen as an exclusively white identity in Brazilian cinema, and its public embrace has allowed Black filmmakers to express the entirety of their multiple identities, relieving the pressure of having to compartmentalize representations.
You know there are others like you, people who want to reclaim film as a legitimate space to inhabit.