“A community working together to make something beautiful out of nothing” is the description that directors Marc Serena and Pablo García Pérez de Lara give of the subject of their film “Tchindas,” which will have its premiere on Wednesday, July 15, at the LGBT film festival Outfest in Los Angeles.
Serena and García answered questions about the film as they made final arrangements for the premiere. The 94-minute documentary is about preparations for carnival on the Cape Verdean island of São Vicente by the African island’s respected, honored, transgender community.
The film’s main character is Tchinda Andrade, a respected trans woman whose name has become the term used by Cape Verdeans for their queer neighbors — not in a derogatory way.
What lessons did you learn in the making of this film?
(Pablo) We’ve been amazed by a community working together to make
something beautiful out of nothing. How people from different ages meet every afternoon and night to rehearse, construct, debate. Everyone takes their role but in the film we see it through the eyes of Tchinda. She’s a leader of her neighborhood.
(Marc) The film has several trans women as main characters but them
being trans is not the conflict of the film. As Lucy Mukerjee-Brown,
the Los Angeles LGBT film festival’s programming director, says:
“instead of just exploring the struggle of what it means to
transition, these films are about transgender protagonists who just
happen to be trans.” It’s a step forward. “The new frontier of
transgender films” she calls it.
What do you hope viewers in Africa will learn from “Tchindas”?
(Pablo) The film may give hope to all queer people living in Africa
that are being told that their way of living or loving is not African.
There are some corners in the continent where you can be trans and fully
respected within your community.
(Marc) The other day I was talking with a trans woman from Malawi and
she told me that what gave hope to her was those celebrated
communities of trans women we can find in the world, like kathoeys
(Thailand), hijras (India) or muxes (Mexico). All the references she
had were from outside of Africa. After this film, she might have a local
What do you hope viewers in the West will learn from “Tchindas”?
(Marc) We tend to portray Africa in a single way. That’s what Nigerian writer Chimamanda Adichie, in her TED talk, describes as the danger of the single story. Cape Verde is normally the exception to many of the generalizations we make about Africa.
(Pablo) It’s true there’s still many challenges, this year Cape Verde is celebrating the 40th anniversary of the independence. It’s a young country.
What obstacles did you face in making the film?
(Marc) Funding. Most of the funders want to see or imagine the film
they are supporting. With “Tchindas” it was difficult as many people
don’t have mental images of Cape Verde, don’t know how Cape Verdean
Creole sounds, didn’t know about this story. We haven’t received much
support in the economical side. It’s been a low-cost production.
(Pablo) One initial obstacle was that, while shooting, we found out
that no one in the island wanted to be told what to do. Even if there
was a little child playing the drum and we told him to come closer to
the camera, he didn’t accept. They let us film as much as we wanted
and there are really intimate moments in the film. But they didn’t allow
us to interfere with their lives or tell them what to say or to walk
somewhere again. It’s been wild but authentic!
Will the film also be shown elsewhere after LA — any showings already scheduled?
(Pablo) We’ve been really focused in finishing the film:
post-production, subtitles, credits. We still haven’t planned ahead.
We’d like to screen the film in many other places. Cape Verde has a
huge diaspora; there ares more people living abroad than inside the
country. But at the same time it’s a film that might interest a wider
Who provided the financial support for the making of “Tchindas”? How much did it cost?
(Marc) As we said, it’s an indie documentary, funded by ourselves.
There’s a production company from Barcelona behind it, Doble Banda. But
we need help for the outreach campaign, to offer the film to
grassroots organizations… Hope someone will help us on the way.
(Pablo) We have to thank Yolanda Olmos, executive producer of the
film. She is part of Doble Banda, producing films for the last 15
years. It’s also awesome the work done by Veronica Font in the sound
post-production. They are the key to the success.
(Marc) We have been helped by dozens of persons from Mindelo. That made
the shooting easier.
(Pablo) Tchinda, Edinha, Elvis and Anita were always going beyond our
expectations. They’ve been quite remarkable, not only from the
cinematic point of view, but also because they were really spontaneous
and authentic during the whole month of shooting.
Does any transphobia and/or homophobia remain in Cape Verde?
(Marc) It’s there, as everywhere. But São Vicente is an easygoing
place, where trans people can make their lives, walk night and day,
accompany the kids of the neighbors to the school if they want to.
Sometimes some Senegalese come to the island to sell some goods in the
streets, and when they see some of those “tchindas” walking around
freely they start praying. It’s simply because that’s not what’s
happening at their country.