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Basta Um Dia /

Living Day by Day


Field Notes – Filming Trip


Jonathan Garcia

Saturday – August 20, 2005


Before we got off the van to begin our first scene, Molly prepared, did her make-up and the last touches to her hair (capinou as sombrancelhas). The first scene filmed was down a sidewalk book-ended by a wall adorned with graffiti to the right and the quotidian amount of traffic (not too heavy at 11am) to the left. The scene begins before a bridge that crosses the highway. Around the bridge there was a group of people, middle-aged, working-class, that seemed to be waiting for a bus (to São Critovão, I later noticed when the bus arrived) – they were standing next to an improvised snack store (carrocinha de doce). Very aware of the filming crew, they were a group of spectators, as would be expected. I stayed in the van while the film crew was filming, approximately 50 meters away; so I could vaguely observe the interactions between the actors. They walked, naturally, obviously trying not to seem like they were being filmed, and observed some of the graffiti on the wall that stood about 10 feet high to their side. Meanwhile I observed the graffiti – first noticing the range of talent, and level of meticulousness and symbolic thought that was inscribed on this wall in a spectrum of color. Following the bus station the wall was mostly raw, barren of paint, exposing the grain of the rocks and the missing bricks. This surface when covered with paint came alive: The grain and the holes transformed into mouths or breasts. The graffiti ranged from black unintelligible signatures to detailed surrealist portraits. Large headed busts, musicians, and men with missing teeth— but my glance paused at the faces of two vampires, noticing the stubbles on their chins, as if immortalized but still in need of grooming (They say hair continues to grow after death). The most capturing mural, however, was that of a boy, six years old; his picture was six feet tall. In his hands he bore an enormous heart; semi-abstract, but with well-defined, deep-red ventricles, with sharp edges rather than curves. The aorta, the in the same abstract style, was a color between royal blue and purple. The word “IXPRINGLOV” was written below the picture of the child. The heart resembled a rose, embedded in a green base. To the left of the painting of the boy with the heart, was a large breasted joker, in white and black. The juxtaposition of color and the decaying walls (the canvas), as well as the interaction between the animate and inanimate life and death (the transient people, the trash on the ground the cars passing by, all coexisting sometimes without notice of each other). The actors cross the bridge before approaching these pictures on the wall, they are filmed crossing the bridge that traverses traffic, watching their steps as to avoid stumbling – elements of grace. They take some note of the graffiti while not losing their line of conversation – some moments of silence, grooming, but they actually pass by the boy with the heart without great notice. Afterwards, photographs were taken with Molly in front of the heart graffiti.

The scene shifted as we drove from the periphery of Rio de Janeiro to the Cemiterio N.S. das Graças – (Construção do Prefeito Dr. Arruda Negreiros, 1950) – this was the first building in the cemetery that caught my eye. The cemetery was all white and blue. The bottoms of tree trunks, trash bins, and construction material were all white – all white except for the litter on the ground. Next to the administration building is a small chapel, with blue, green and orange stained glass windows. In the gate of the cemetery, a funeral car was parked, empty and dark inside. The groups of men standing around smoking cigarettes, only one woman at this time. They were very aware of the filming crew. Then a funeral came through. People were wearing, not black, but ordinary clothing (jeans, slacks; orange, blue, brown blouses; a variety of shoes). The filming crew was aware of the funeral and was respectful of the ceremony but stopping the film. Marcio changed clothing, wearing all white, representing himself as a member of the Candomblé religion (his Santo is Obaluaiê, who is said to be a healer and is syncratized in the Catholic religion as Saint Lazarus). He is wearing a necklace with flat, disk-like, white beads and reddish-brown inch-long, cylindrical beads. In the first scene that we filmed Marcio and Molly walked side-by-side uphill. The contrast between their dress-type was clear. She was wearing all red, and he was wearing all white – these colors could be symbolic. White is representative of purity – it is a man wearing white in this case. Red is sometimes symbolic of love, blood and passion – a transwoman is wearing this color. He is wearing sandles, she is wearing heals. Cement blocks, tools, and wagons sit beside the newly buried. The scene to the right of the walkway uphill is a panorama of mountains with favelas; on the other side are power lines. If you walk up to the top of hill, you notice that on the left side is the Via Dutra. This is the avenue where many transgender and queer people suffer from violence while they are working as commercial sex-workers. Marcio mentions that it is interesting that Andresa Estrass (the murdered individual that we were visiting) was buried in sight of the Via Dutra. Molly carries in her hands a bouquet of flowers: white lilies, yellow pompoms. The scene is filmed several times – as they walk uphill – from several angles. Most tombstones and mausoleums are cover in graffiti – nothing elaborate, simple signatures in black or blue spray paint. Did enemies of the dead deface these tombstones? The tiles and bricks of the mausoleums are also falling or missing. The cemetery is clearly unkempt, beyond the initial appearance of purity of the white paint on the walls of buildings and tree trunks and blue trimmings of the roofs and doors. Finally the filming crew ascends to the grave of Andresa Estrass (which is not indicated by her name, but by a number: Q 10 919. Before the filming of the scene begins, Marcio comments that the grave was probably badly dug or too little soil was placed on top, as he remarks with surprise that her grave is sunken in. To me this indicated that Marcio and Mole had not visited the grave in a long time. The crew filmed while Marcio and Molly fixed the position of the cross (which was tilted backwards) and arranged the flowers around the cross. I wondered whether Andresa was Christian – would she have wanted to be buried under a cross? To me the cross was imposed, generally on the dead – ironically a cross to bear because Christians committed or instigated most of the crimes against people like Andresa. Marcio comments that many Exú parties are carried out at night at this cemetery and points to the live chickens and roosters (let loose during ceremonies, allegedly) that accompany the stray dogs living next to (perhaps their owners’, as some speculate) graves. The contrast between the Christianity and the Afro-Brazilian religion – who both are expressed by symbols or animals – was subtle at first, but clear. The still objects (crosses, symbols of death) and live chickens were here in cohabitation? As we were leaving the cemetery, Vagner almost sat on what had appeared to be a bench. Marcio warned him not to sit there because it was not a bench but the bed where coffins are last placed for relatives to see their beloved(?) dead. Then Marcio told a story about how bloody (gosma) his hands were when he and a few other were the only ones at Andresa’s funeral. At this point, both Marcio and Molly were filmed and asked questions about what happened on that day – reiterating the story that they told when they warned us not to sit on the “bench”.

Then the crew went to pick up Malena in her house and we stopped in her mother’s Kiosky to buy snacks called salgadinho (fofura) and soft drink with taste of lemon called (Convenção),

TAKE
which kept us alive until the next scene which took place in a poor neighborhood where a Pai de Santo (Wagner) was tied to a railroad track after being given a “tiro de misericordia.” The train destroyed his body. The assassin(s) belonged to a community evangelical group – who spoke the words “A Cor do Coração” “Acorda Coração?” when they killed him. They killed him not only because he was homosexual (and had homosexuals in his terreiro) but because of his religion. In fact he was known to give frequent parties to Exú, the Orixá that is syncretized with the devil in the Catholic/Christian religions. The way that the assassin(s) captured him was actually during a party – usual festivities rife with food, drinks, offerings, and sharing of camaraderie. People from this evangelical group invaded the party, the guests ran in all directions, and a filho de santo of Pai Wagner (who was also named Wagner) ran into a water tank and hid until the morning because he was not sure that the event was over. This story was told to me quickly by Malena, a transgender woman of middle age, who is a figure in the queer/trans community and activist of gay group called 28 de julho in Aústin and Nova Iguaçú – she spoke very quickly, using girias, and in a sotaque that was somewhat unfamiliar (along with the cadence of her elaborations and syntax of her phrases), so it took a while for my ear to become accustomed to what she was saying. We were standing on an improvised bridged, although it was paved it was only 2.5 feet wide and allowed only one-way traffic across. The bridge connects the road with the railroad, which are divided by a river. The smell of the river was of rotting flesh, or at least feces, and I was told that it was a real river, but it was also used for drainage/esgoto. Along the river were small houses made out of plywood (or thin wood), improvised as well, with clothing hanging to dry in the patio under the big Mango’s tree and Bread Fruit (fruta pão). The people that lived there was aware of what was going on, not to mention that they were extremely friendly. One woman, when she realized that the filming crew was waiting to film the train, warned us that when the train arrived it would be unannounced. In other words, the crew should get off the tracks because once we realized that the train was coming, the train would be running us over. It was helpful to have Malena there with us, as a key informant, because otherwise would may have received different treatment from the people living in the area – especially because we were carrying cameras and long microphones (not to mention my gringoness, which makes me constantly self-aware, especially in areas where I am the person with the lightest skin). But I think in the end, my self-awareness was mostly internal, as people seem to be going on with their daily activities without much interruption. After filming at the railroad we ventured to the house of the Pai de Santo Wagner, who was murdered, as I described earlier. The area was a bit more dangerous, as Malena warned us – and people would be aware of the crew because this house carried a certain stigma and history. The crew quickly filmed the house from various angles. It was nearly unperceivable as a house (or the ruins of a house) because it was covered in vines and plants that were either thrown over the wreckage to cover the past or merely there naturally. Malena mentioned that people believed that the spirit of those who were killed in the house still remain – because they died due to murder (in an unnatural way), which added to the mystery and fear that surrounded the house. Thus, people from the community watched the crew as we filmed (Malena was self-conscious about this), probably thinking that we were writing a story about the house and the event (according to Malena), connecting us indirectly with the stigma associated with the place. Down the street, rode by men on “carriages” pulled by poorly fed and obviously over-worked horses. This seems to be a means of transporting materials – some of these carriages carried sacks (filled with I don’t know what – perhaps construction material (such as cement) or food).

TAKE
Then the team ventured to the railroad station to film another train as it came – but the train never came and it was difficult to film through the gates that protected people from falling from the ramp that leads to the ticket booths. The ramp was filled with food kiosks and street vendors. We ate several unhealthy foods, such as pastel de queijo and pão de queijo (sold by the 100g – which was to much of the rubbery bread for my taste). The food was well appreciated, however, because we were very hungry, it was hot, and some of us were very sleepy (myself included). Then we went into the plaza in from of the train station to take picture of religious images that were located at the center (a Virgin Mary). And we also filmed a church that was adjacent to the plaza. While we were waiting for the van to arrive, some of us drank a beer called Skol, which was refreshing on several levels. Now we were on our way to the Cachorro quente (brazilian’s Hot Dog) – a gathering at the house of one of Malena’s friend (from hereon called Ms. Camille Parker, because I did not take note of here name). On the way there a group of kids saw us filming and taking pictures of a horse-and-carriage, and they saw Marcio drinking his very cold Skol. They were amused, one signaled with his hand (by placing his hand in a thumbs-up position and motioning it toward his mouth, in salut of the beer drinking). When we arrived at the home of Ms. Camille Parker, I met everyone and felt awkward because I was American-looking and timid. Eventually, however, I started talking and smoking cigarettes with some of the “ladies” who were there to visit Ms. Gaby for the hot-dog party. In front of the house there was a patio area with several people talking and drinking beer Antartica. The discussion centered mostly on sex – I was not surprised. Many talked about waiting for the bofes to stop by later – they seemed anxious for them to arrive – in fact, bofes seemed like a scarce commodity or an iconographic symbol, but definitely a gender role that complimented the “female” role that many of the people in the house seemed to have. In fact, various piadas were made about one individual (a black man, semi-fat – who was not dressed in female clothing, but in very tight pants that exposed his ass, and a tight t-shirt made out of synthetic clingy material in pink), but he rode a motorcycle and joke were made that if you considered only his top part (excluding the pants that revealed not only his ass when he sat on his motorcycle, but also his package), he could be a bofe: again, an allusion to a type or an ideal form. Several “conflicting” characteristics of this individual supported such brincadeira, however. The fact that he rode a motorcycle with 2 Hello Kitty stickers (sizable, and clearly noticeable, and strategically placed on the side and on the front of the bike). After one glass of beer (two really, but Vagner served me mostly foam so they only counted as one), I went inside to eat hot dogs. These were not conventional hot-dogs (if you consider US hot-dogs conventional). They were cut in slices and stewed in sauce, and served in buns that were half the size of “conventional” hot-dog buns (delicious). There was diet as well as regular Coca-Cola. I went back outside and the crew was filmed a scene about violence in action. In other words, Molly and Ms. Camille Paker were filmed running – with the camera focused on their feet. Then several adolescents from the street and some that were in Ms. Camille’s home were invited to participate in a Mock Beating. They chased Ms. Camille down the street and re-enacted a typical scene of violence suffered by people of Ms. Camille’s type. In spite of feeling uncomfortable with Marcio’s constant sexual advances and touching (which made me flee to the inside of the house for a few minutes) I was beginning to feel as though this was a family: a community inside a house, marginalized, but expressing real happiness. Not thinking about violence constantly, but enjoying the moment together while they were in their safe-place, even though they were re-enacting violent scenes, they laughed about it. Even though they would encounter serious danger when they worked (some were commercial sex workers), they expressed great desired for men (bofes) to cum and piss on their faces. So it wasn’t all sadness and depression and violence. Acolhimento, par excelance. I served the children hot-dogs – as I was handed a tray: This was their payment for playing they were invited before to discurss Safe Sex and Social Violence in their communities the role of the assassins in our film. They were very happy and soon their friends appeared. A group of about 10 children adolencents between 14 to 18 years old were outside now, sitting in the patio area where we were sitting before. Some were expressing themselves as true queens, prancing, talking about sucking dick, and such. Others seemed to be the long-awaited bofes – my guess is that the bofes were 18 years old (if not younger), while the more effeminate boys were younger (around 14-16 years old). But I forgot to describe the layout of the house. After you pass the patio, you walk into a beauty salon, one chair to the right for washing hair, one adjustable salon chair in front of a mirror that extended the entire wall. At the back of the house there is a living room with a t.v. set and a home entertainment system that lights up on neon blue – a touch of fabulous. (In fact, as we filmed an interview with a Key Informat in the living room area, in the dark, she wore was she called her jacket from “Paris”, chic sunglasses, and a hat that was appropriate for the beach. This was not the same type of “transgender” that I am used to interacting with in the United States – their faces had stubble, and some did not have simulated “breasts”.) Eventually the children entered the house and they continued to talk about sex – the space was primarily sexual. They wanted to smoke cigarettes and drink. One was learning how to smoke cigarettes correctly (someone was teaching him how to do it in a more masculine style). Then Vagner found this an excellent opportunity to conduct an intervention. The house – the family-like environment – was truly a place of congregation for young boys who were sexually active and could benefit from not only knowledge about drug abuse and alcohol abuse (and how this causes vulnerability) but also in need of condoms – certainly if the kids decided to use them there were not enough condoms to distribute to them to satisfy their ‘sexuality’ judging by their verbal and body language. But this has to be questioned as well, as adolescents could perhaps inflate the degree to which they are sexually active. They understood what Vagner was saying – or at least most of them accepted the information respectfully, and they were very appreciative and even excited about receiving the condoms (which indicates to me that condoms are a scarce resource and that perhaps they are willing to use them). When serious questions about their age or about their sexual experiences were asked, some responded by laughing unstoppably – avoiding the question in embarrassment and perhaps buying time to think of an appropriate answer. In any case, to me it indicated an element of nervousness. The young boys were very happy to take pictures with the condoms in display – some had them in their hands, some held them in their mouths (as to insinuate the sexual use of the device – indicating a certain level of erogeneity associated with condoms – association with condoms that could be helpful in increasing safer sex). They wanted attention they need attention. At this point, I was very tired and very overwhelmed with the young boys in the room. I can only take a certain degree of stress (and perhaps the fact that they were partying was eclipsed by the fact that they were vulnerable in my mind – making me on top of tired a bit depressed). I first ventured to the ‘straight’ bar-zinho that was next door to the party house. One man complained to the others – saying that he had enough of those loud faggots, and that he was going to see his girl friend. The mention of his girl friend seemed to indicate that he wanted to clearly differentiate himself. And beyond that, he revealed to me that the community surrounding the house was not as unified and accepting as I had previously though. I then went to the van for a while, observing the dancing and partying that were happening inside of the house. The adults were outside now, and the young boys were dancing to funk music inside – one of them was already in his boxer shorts. I reemerged for the final group picture, and we parted. But before we parted, Mole, our actress was approached by several of the bofes – and she got several phone numbers! Again, it interesting that the ‘masculine’ queers were most attracted to the most extreme ‘feminine’ queer (normative gender roles reproduced within an entirely queer space). Two salient theoretical elements that came to mind in this party are (1) the tensions and definitions of the private and public spheres – as expressed in safe-spaces and micro-community (2) the co-existence of happiness and sadness even when danger, fear and discrimination were the main topics of discussion.



 

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