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2024 Travessias Brazilian Film Festival

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Heartless — The Party Film Sales
Heartless — The Party Film Sales

Programmers Livia Lima and Calac Nogueira on taking over the Northwest Film Forum for their two-day festival

A relative newcomer to the Seattle cinema scene, the fourth annual Travessias Brazilian Film Festival kicks off two full days of programming at the Northwest Film Forum on May 24. Featuring an exciting program of features, documentaries, and shorts, including the LGBTQ+ coming-of-age drama Heartless, it is an electrifying explosion of moviegoing wonders focusing on works made by female, Black, and Indigenous filmmakers.

I had the opportunity to briefly chat with two of the programmers, Livia Lima and Calac Nogueira, about this year's lineup and where they hope Travessias goes in the future. Here are the edited transcripts of our conversation:

Sara Michelle Fetters: The Travessias Brazilian Film Festival is still relatively new on the festival landscape in Seattle. Could you please tell me more about it and its genesis?

Calac Nogueira: The Travessias Brazilian Film Festival started in 2019 and is in its fourth edition. The festival focuses on independent contemporary Brazilian cinema, and we look for films that explore urgent themes and are aesthetically bold. We tend to privilege films about or made by women, Black, and Indigenous people.

The festival was conceived by Brazilian film researcher Emanuella Rodrigues de Moraes, who now lives in Rio de Janeiro. Since the third edition in 2022, Livia Lima and I joined her on the selection committee. We also count on the guidance of professors Jonathan Warren and Eduardo Vianna da Silva from the University of Washington.

Travessias would also not have been possible without the support of Rana San, former artistic director of the Northwest Film Forum, who has supported the festival from its inception.

SMF: This festival comes immediately in the shadow of the much higher-profile Seattle International Film Festival. Do you worry at all people may be suffering from "festival fatigue" at this point?

Livia Lima: To be honest, we are more concerned with the warm weather and the hiking season. [laughs] Many people tend to prefer to be outdoors at this time of the year.

SMF: The festival is a collaborative endeavor that brings together multiple members of the community, from local businesses to the University of Washington to the folks at the Northwest Film Forum. What is the programming process like? I imagine, with only two days for the festival, a lot of difficult decisions had to be made.

CN: The programming process takes place over months, with many rounds of Zoom meetings between Emanuella and the two of us. Since we don't work with an open call, we have to sort through the most interesting films that came out on the film festival circuit in the past year. It's difficult to narrow down, but we have a good chemistry, and three curators is an excellent number, especially when there's a tie.

LL: For us, the festival is also a great opportunity to keep up to date with the most exciting things being made in the Brazilian cinema right now. We're always asking for recommendations from friends who are watching the movies firsthand.

SMF: Tell me about this year's selections. Why were they chosen? What should audiences expect?

CN: We are extremely happy with this year's selection. The opening night features the social thriller Property, a breathtaking film about a woman who, visiting her countryside estate, gets stuck in her armored car due to a riot of her employees. It comes from Recife and is reminiscent of some other Brazilian recent films that mix genre elements with social content, such as 2012's Neighboring Sounds and 2019's Bacurau. The film screens with the short film Neon Phantom, a musical about delivery gig workers in Rio de Janeiro and which was awarded at the Locarno Film Festival.

The Invention of Other is a documentary about the efforts of FUNAI, the Brazilian state protection agency for indigenous rights, to reunite a group of Korubo to their original community. The Korubo are one of the few Indigenous populations to live completely isolated in the Amazon. It's a very urgent film, especially because of the looming risks today over the Amazon, its people, and ecosystem. One of the main characters of the movie, the indigenist Bruno Pereira, was murdered on a mission to control illegal fishing in 2022. The film screens with a beautiful short film, Thuë Pihi Kuuwi: A Woman Thinking, made by Yanomami women filmmakers.

The closing program feature Heartless, a visually stunning coming-of-age movie about a group of Queer teenagers who hang out despite differences of class, race, and sexuality. The movie screens with the short animation The Enchanted One, codirected by an Indigenous filmmaker, which explores the Maxakali mythology.

SMF: How do you hope Travessias continues to grow and maybe expand in the coming years?

LL: We understand that the festival's mission is, first and foremost, to present the best of contemporary Brazilian cinema to the Seattle audience. However, we also understand that it is part of our responsibility to build bridges between this cinema production and the viewer. The only way to make it happen is by nurturing a close relationship with the public.

In the coming years, we hope to grow our group of sponsors and supporters by having more film programs and gatherings, like workshops, Brazilian music concerts, and dance parties! Throughout that, we want to understand better what they want in Travessias and how Travessias can still delight and challenge them in surprising ways.

SMF: With the rise of streaming, why is the cinematic theatric experience still so valuable? Why are festivals like this one still so important?

CN: There are a couple of things here. First, most of the films we are showing aren't available on streaming for American audiences. The vast majority of foreign films don't make it to streaming platforms. So streaming platforms actually offer a very narrow selection of movies.

Second, festivals like ours involve a careful selection process, led by passionate people.

Finally, it's a great opportunity to see the movies on the big screen, with the best technical conditions possible and a sense of community!

SMF: What should people know about the Brazilian film community?

LL: People should know that Brazilian cinema is radical and experimental. Of course, there are some Brazilian blockbusters, especially comedies, but even the "classics" of modern Brazilian cinema were already formally daring and very politicized.

In contemporary times, we have been watching a rise in the number of voices coming from different regions, rather than the usual big cities like São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. For example, we love the work of the filmmakers André Novais and Adirley Queirós, who live in and film the periphery of Belo Horizonte and Brasília. Also, despite calling these films independent, in the sense that they are produced outside the industrial mode, most of the features we showcase are only made possible with state support, through incentive laws that offer tax deductions to sponsoring companies.

Under Bolsonaro's government, the film scene suffered a lot, and fewer films were released. Therefore, the wealth of democracy is crucial for the long life of Brazilian cinema — and everything else!

SMF: Could this festival exist without the support of organizations like the Northwest Film Forum? What part do they play in the Pacific Northwest cinema community?

CN: Since the beginning, hosting the festival in a movie theater and a dynamic neighborhood like Capitol Hill attracted the organizers. Coming from academia, we aim to connect our research to debates in the public sphere, fostering conversations on politics, race, gender, and sexuality through outstanding films.

Nonprofit movie theaters like the Northwest Film Forum, Beacon Cinema, and Grand Illusion are crucial to bringing diversity to the Pacific Northwest cinema community. If it weren't for their programming and festivals featuring international and local films, Seattleites would watch on the big screen only commercial and well-behaved cinema.

LL: Northwest Film Forum also plays a significant role in the professional development of youth and newcomers to the cinema sphere. Local cinema production is growing and hopefully will get better tax deductions soon. The more that future filmmakers get access to different films, the more they will be able to experiment. The movies we showcase in Travessias are excellent examples of the wonders independent filmmakers can do.

SMF: For audiences, what do you hope they are talking about after this year's festival? What do you hope they experience?

CN: While selecting the films for Travessias, we don't work with a predetermined theme. We like to keep our possibilities as open and wild as possible. Only afterward we look at what we have selected to make sense out of the films. The spirit of the time is always there. It came already from the films, of course, but it is also highlighted by our aim to find some answers to the present challenges.

In this edition of the Travessias, we ended up selecting films that remind us to stay tuned to different forms of solidarity. We invite the public to support their union in the first film program. On the second, we urge everyone to advocate for Indigenous rights and land demarcation. On our third film programming, we reaffirm the revolutionary strength of staying true to our beliefs and backing our community members by showing a lovely film on a Queer youth group finding support on friendship and interspecies kinship to survive bumpy times. We hope the festival can give the public a strategic break to return stronger to their fights.

SMF: Finally, anything else you'd like to add or share?

LL: How about a little additional good news?

First, Travessias is offering free tickets for students this year! Just show up with your student IDs. Second, on our opening night, we are also having pães de queijo and coxinhas generously provided by our partner Kitanda. Third, we are growing a collaborative Spotify playlist with great Brazilian contemporary music: https://bit.ly/4bxZjGA — Check it out!

Lastly, cinema buffs out there, please stop by to say hello, watch a film or two, and chat about cinema with us! We love to hear from you.

For a full calendar of screenings and ticket information, please head over to https://nwfilmforum.org/calendar