'Valentina' was created out of the desire to change reality by making it more visible: Director Santos at IFFI 51

Valentina, which won the Audience Choice Award for Best Brazilian Fiction Feature at Săo Paulo International Film Festival, had its Asian Premiere at IFFI 51.

Valentina, a Brazilian film showcased the 51st International Film Festival of India (IFFI), in Goa, seeks to address the social boycott Brazil’s transgender students face, film director Cássio Pereira dos Santos said.

"If we need to change the reality, we need to make the issue more visible. The reality of transgenders in Brazil is not upright. Due to ignorance, there are prejudices against them, they suffer huge biases, besides falling victims to hate crimes.  Due to their different identity, many students drop out of schools as the environment there is hostile towards them," Santos said at a press conference on Friday in Panaji.

Cássio Pereira dos Santos was sharing the force which drove him to make the eponymous film which tells the story of a 17-year-old transgender Brazilian girl, whose sole aim is to lead a normal life with her mother.

"It a big issue in Brazil where there are a large number of people of the third gender. The urge to throw light on this social boycott they face led us to the making of ValentinaThe film is our effort to change reality by making it more visible," the director who is also the scriptwriter said.

Valentina, which won the Audience Choice Award for Best Brazilian Fiction Feature at Săo Paulo International Film Festival, had its Asian Premiere at IFFI 51.

The film is a reflection of the real-life hardships that a young transgender woman is forced to embrace and endure just because she is different. In her attempt to enrol in school using her social name, she tries to keep her real identity secret. But there comes a catch when the school demands her father’s signature, while she was being raised by a single mother. She eventually successfully overcomes all the hurdles to achieve her aim, the film tells how, the Information and Broadcasting Ministry said.

Santos revealed how he ended up making a film on this highly topical subject of immense societal relevance.

“The idea to make Valentina took birth seven years ago. After making eight short films, we were on the lookout for a subject to make a feature film and were doing intense research for the same. Our research led us to the reality that 80% of Brazilian transgender students drop out of school because of the social boycott they face. It never ends there. Lack of educational qualifications and consequent inability to access the job market force many of them into prostitution. This is a huge social issue in Brazil," he said.

Valentina’s role is played by the debut actor Thiessa Woinbackk, who too is a transgender. Santos explained the motivation for this choice. “We felt this was required, for the emotions to come naturally. This decision was important, as the movie tells about the marginalisation they face," he said.

How did they find Thiessa Woinbackk for the role?

Finding the right person was another long process, says Santos. “We invited entries from transgender girls, through social media, and received almost 50 videos. We finalised Woinbackk since she was a YouTuber, who was already familiar facing the camera. We are really happy with the result; we are getting rave reviews about her performance.”

Thanking IFFI for premiering the film, Santos said: “For the first time, I saw my movie on a big screen at IFFI and that was very special for us. We came from Brazil to see Valentina here.”

Director Santos studied cinema at the University of Brasília, where he directed fiction and documentary projects. His works have been selected at several international film festivals. He has received more than 50 awards. Following the encouraging success of Valentina, he is currently working on his second project, the ministry stated in a release.


First Published:Jan. 22, 2021, 5:22 p.m.

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