While 2015, may possibly have been called the “Year of the Trans Woman” in the U.S., trans people, particularly women in communities around the world still are facing tough times. As Kathoeys in Thailand, Hijras in India or Muxes in Mexico, another community of brave trans women are fighting for their rights: the Cape Verdean Tchindas. These women first appeared in the national press in 1998. Since then the island of São Vicente has become an example for the way they celebrate the difference—this in an African region where Mauritania maintains the death penalty for same sex relationships and Gambia has made its anti-gay laws harsher, imposing life imprisonment in some cases.
A cinematic portrait of this Cape Verdean community, where trans women are thriving, can be found in episode three of the public television documentary series AfroPoP: The Ultimate Cultural Exchange. Tchindas premieres on Monday, February 1, 2016 on WORLD Channel. The documentary is called a production of Doble Banda, codirected by Pablo García Pérez de Lara and Marc Serena.
National Black Programming Consortium (NBPC), which executive produces the series, asked the directors for their views on their film and the issues it raises.
NBPC: In “Tchindas” we perceive lots of respect for transgender women. Is Cape Verde a paradise?
MARC: It depends in how you look upon it. Cape Verde is an exception in Africa, a continent where the LGBT community is persecuted by law in 34 out of 54 countries. In the island of São Vicente, trans women can walk during the day freely and have their own life. Sadly, this is something rather unique. At the same time, there are a lot of things to improve. Some, are very simple, as the possibility to have a legal documents with their real sexual identity.
NBPC: What do you like the most about the film?
PABLO: For me it is the happiness and good vibes you can feel, as it’s a very humble community that makes something precious out of nothing. Kids, mothers, elders and the main characters of the film have a contagious energy, appreciating the key things in life every second.
MARC: Their Carnival is considered to be one of the best in Africa and it takes places every February. One of the things that makes it special is Cesária Évora’s song, saying that their Carnival is a Little Brazil.
PABLO: The film is focused in the small details of their everyday life—friendship, neighbors, family. They all have a true relevance to São Vicente’s people.
NBPC: For many viewers, it’ll be the first time they hear Cape Verdean Creole. Will Brazilians and Portuguese speakers understand it?
MARC: Not much. Cape Verdean is a language spoken by less than 1 million people, and it’s different from Portuguese, even if some words are common. It’s also the language of the Diaspora, as there are more Cape Verdeans living abroad than in their country, especially in the United States and Portugal.
NBPC: The film has already been premiered in Cape Verde. What has been the reaction?
PABLO: A tremendous success! It was premiered in the capital, Praia, and Tchinda, Elvis and Edinha came from their island to take part in the event.
MARC: People were clapping at several points during the screening. Some cried with emotion even before the movie started. Tchinda Andrade is one of the most beloved women of this islands and the film is a tribute to her.
NBPC: The film is doing very well in film festivals, where it has already received eight awards. Why are there so few films portraying the African trans community?
MARC: There are several interesting projects, such as The Pearl of Africa (in Uganda) and brave work done by organizations like Gender DynamiX. There are many people working but their work needs to be highlighted.
NBPC: As a doc, it’s relevant to be honest. Was it also important to you in the cinematography?
PABLO: Sure! It’s shot on a single camera, mainly with two classical lenses: 35mm and 50mm, which give it a strong personality. One of the strange things considering it’s a doc is that the camera is quite static. It’s at the same level that the eyes of the characters. And then, we put in a lot of work ono the editing and sound postproduction.
NBPC: Is there any visual reference you want to mention?
PABLO: We love the Japanese director Yasujirô Ozu!
NBPC: The film shows a very intimate side of Cape Verde. Why is that?
PABLO: We were shooting only two persons and this allowed us to be near the action and, at the same time, nearly invisible. That why there’s so much spontaneity, truth in it. That’s what was most surprising in the Cape Verdean premiere and we hope it will also fascinate the AfroPoP viewers!
Tune in on Monday, February 1, at 8 p.m. ET/5 pm. PT on WORLD Channel. And for more information on the film and to follow the filmmakers, visit: