A wonderful trip to an exotic African island that wil capture your imagination.
There’s a time of the year when the whole country of Cape Verde turns into a little Brazil: Carnival time. Tchinda promise brings us the colourful and tropical rhythms of this traditional party told through the eyes of a trans woman, Tchinda Andrade. Marc Serena and Pablo García Pérez de Lara are the directors of this award winning feature documentary, whose European Premiere will take place in Belfast.
1. How would you describe your film Tchindas?
PABLO: It is an immersion in Cape Verde, an archipelago of 10 volcanic islands in the Atlantic Ocean. Once a year, the whole country works together to make something beautiful out of nothing. It is their Carnival, considered to be the best in Africa.
MARC: We observe the rehearsals and the preparations through the eyes of Tchinda, the most respected trans woman. Her name has become the way Queer Cape Verdeans are called.
2. How did you discover the community featured in the film, and your main character Tchinda Andrade?
MARC: I met Tchinda for the first time in 2011 and we ended up visiting the most beloved Cape Verdean singer, Cesária Évora, in her house.
They both have a very good relationship. For example, when Tchinda suffered violence and had her faced smashed for being trans, Cesária provided the medication.
We spent the afternoon together and Edinha, one of the other main characters of the film, was also there. It was an awesome moment and Cesária invited me to come again for their Carnival.
36 hours later, she died and it was an enormous shock for the whole country.
PABLO: Marc had those images in his mind and he convinced me to go with him to Cape Verde with a camera. It was in 2013 and we spent a month shooting… and the result is here! The soundtrack is by Cesária Évora.
3. Africa is often portrayed in a generalised manner in film and television. What do you think the audience will discover watching Tchindas?
PABLO: It has to be one of the lesser-known sides of the continent, a little Brazil in Africa. It also shows a moment of the year full of imagination, talent, cooperation… where some dreams become true. It is so different from the image we have from the continent that some people even think it is fiction! But no, it is all 100% as we experienced it.
MARC: The film is also a chance to hear the oldest spoken creole, the Cape Verdean Creole. During the shooting, they knew we weren’t understanding fully what they said and that made them feel more relaxed. We have edited and subtitled with the help of a translator.
4. How does Cape Verde differ from other African nations in its thinking about LGBT issues?
MARC: There is actually a harsh persecution in Africa based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Some marvellous films like “Call me Kuchu”, “God Save Uganda” or “Stories of Our Lives” document this situation.
We wanted to show the other side, a place in African where you can be trans and respected. Sadly, it is just an island: if they travelled to the neighbouring countries such as Senegal, Mauritania or Gambia, they might be detained and tortured within a few hours.
5. Is there much transphobia or homophobia in Cape Verde?
MARC: In the last Afrobarometer, Cape Verde has been ranked as the most gay friendly country in the continent (http://76crimes.com/2016/03/09/africas-most-and-least-homophobic-countries). Even with that, the situation could be better as there is no local laws against homophobia or transphobia.
The film received wonderful reactions in November when it premiered in Cape Verde, but we also have been ignored by the government, rejected by some of the most influential people… and now we face several obstacles to screen it. But this is not only because the main characters of the film are trans, but also because they are not part of the elite that leads the country.
PABLO: We would like to screen in other African countries, but it is not easy.
6. What are your creative and cultural backgrounds?
PABLO: This summer we will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the shooting of my first film: “Fuente Álamo: the caress of time”. It takes place in a small Spanish town and it was a blast, as it ended up touring the world through film festivals. Since then, I have been very active directing documentaries for TV, and as DoP on a dozen films. I teach cinema to kids, my passion.
MARC: Pablo is an artist, I am just a journalist. This film comes after a book I wrote was published in Catalan and Spanish which contains stories of queer African’s from 15 countries.
7. The film is beautifully shot. Were aesthetics important?
PABLO: Yes, despite having a low budget: just one camera and a couple of prime lens. We used a lot of static shots and paid lots of attention to faces, as [Japanese director] Yasujiro Ozu did.
We paid lots of attention to the people on set. They felt very comfortable as we had a crew of just two persons, Marc and I!
8. We’re delighted that Marc can attend the film festival and represent both the film and the production company Doble Banda. What are you looking forward about Belfast?
MARC: It will be our European Premiere, so very excited! We will come thanks to the support of the Ramon Llull Institute. Hope to bring some tropical weather to Belfast! Or at least some tropical rhythm, as the film has!
For further information on Tchindas visit: