When it comes to black, queer lives, more often than not -commercial and indie filmmakers alike- give the audience an equally heart and gut wrenching narrative of loss, jump cuts and monochrome lighting, complete with somber music in the background. As if only spoon-fed tragedy is capable of having a profound impact on the viewer. This is exactly what Bonde sets out to disprove.
From the first scene you know Bonde is different, it’s not sad.
You can feel the laughter, warmth and friendship.
Lua, Rai and Camis prepare for a night out in Sao Paulo. The preparation for a group night out is written with exquisite accuracy. Right from the day-long hype in the group chat, to picking out and explaining your choice of booze before the party, and finally getting there only to risk it all when that one song starts to play.
As the three dance to funk music, the micro-aggressions of the day melt away. The creative decision of showing them literally make peace with their aggressors is brilliant. As Camis moves to the beat, shoulder to shoulder with her mother, who before coming to the club nagged Camis about her girlfriend, Lua stares straight into the space before her, in the college hallway a schoolmate asked if they could use Lua’s transition as a topic for an assignment, Rai twerks on a table of the bakery, employees of which, harassed Rai on the way to the club. The film allows us into the minds of the three friends, their group chat and their interactions with the outside world.
Every conversation between the three is loaded with references to internet and meme culture, incorporating these references not just in the dialogue, but also visually, is another creative decision that makes Bonde that much better.
When the three friends are stopped by the police as they head home, the frame distorts, going into slow-motion as the three friends face the camera with their arms raised. We see three 16×9 rectangles pop up one by one (think the Instagram Live frame and format) as the camera moves from Rai to Camis to Lua. In these 16×9 rectangles, one after the other, each friend tells us the three rules of what to do and what not to, when you are a black person stopped by the police.
The visual and narrative medium of this short film is fluid, it makes you laugh along with Lua, Rai and Camis, educates you on the reality of their lives and also breaks into a music video vibe thrice, all in the span of 19 minutes.
It is hard to describe Bonde in a word, but if you must, calling it an ‘experience’ sounds about right.
Bonde (portugese for ‘tram’) features in the GRITS. GUTS. GLORY category of the Kashish Mumbai International Queer Film Festival. It has all three in equal measure. Written by a film collective (Gleba do Pêssego) of eight people from the LGBTQIA+ community, who have lived most of their lives on the outskirts of Sao Paulo (where the film is based).
As you get closer to the city centre in Sao Paulo, the neighbourhoods get richer, and despite non-white people being a majority, Brazilian cinema is populated by the rich, white and cis.
Such circumstances have made the materialisation of Bonde that much harder, and the joy this short evokes in you, that much greater.