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“There is not even a chance of rain. The sailors’ shell does not show, foreshadowing them. The northeast persists intensely, rolling across the plateaus, humming in prolonged howls in the roaring laughter of the caatingas and the Sun spreading through the clear firmament, the inextinguishable fires of the heat. The countryman, overwhelmed with setbacks, finally folds ”.


Euclides da Cunha, “Os Sertões” (Rebellion in the Backlands)



"Ser Tão" takes place in Sertão do Pajeú, where there is a river of the same name that was given by the indigenous Tapuias, the first inhabitants. But the area of approximately 10 thousand square kilometers, inhabited by about 300 thousand people, became famous as the birthplace of the "cangaço" or the leader of the cangaceiros, Virgulino Ferreira da Silva, also known as Lampião. This place, marked by historically sexist and violent actions, is where our characters, separately and at different times, decide to introduce themselves to the world as they have always seen themselves in front of the mirror: Rayanna Sofia de Souza, Sabrina Marques, Angélica Kathiley, Desyrrê Cândido and Palloma Soares.


In a unique way, they mustered the courage to face society's prejudice and disdain and embrace their own voices. They are no longer seen as gay but rather as what they have always known themselves to be: trans women. Something that sixth character could not accomplish. She died, still being seen as a "he", before being able to come out. Those who knew her knew of her eternal desire to go for a walk in the caatinga in heels and a flowing dress. 





In 1700, the area where the city of Serra Talhada is located today was a breeding farm belonging to the Portuguese-born Agostinho Nunes de Magalhães. The property was called Serra Talhada (something like "Cropped Hill" in English) because there is a mountain near it, which is a chain of the Borborema mountain range, of granite formation, and of one its hills looks like it was cut in half. 

The privileged position of Agostinho Nunes' barns, on the roads leading to Ceará, Paraíba, and Bahia, soon became a meeting point for cowboys and riders who took their cattle to these states. This meeting point evolved into a gathering of market traders that traded animals among other goods. This is where the mercantile vocation of the municipality was born. 


With the trade that arose from the gathering of cowboys, riders, and muleteers, the farm began to resemble a village. Soon after, it became Villa Bella, a name adopted after the emancipation of Pajeú de Flores, which was the head of the county until then, on May 6, 1851.

In 1893, the first Town Council of Serra Talhada was installed, and its first mayor, Andrelino Pereira da Silva, the Baron of Pajeú, is elected. Only in 1939, by a decree of the then governor Agamenon Magalhães, did Villa Bella get back its original name to be called Serra Talhada - "The Land of Machos".

The city's history is one of the richest in the whole state of Pernambuco. Its founders actively participated in the history of Pernambuco and Brazil, and their descendants, such as Agamenon Magalhães, are among the main Brazilian political leaders.


The city is also rich for its artists and intellectuals who stand out as references in the cultural scene of the state. In addition to being the birthplace of polemic figures, such as Virgulino Ferreira da Silva (Lampião), the city now starts to stand out in tourism, thus exploiting its plastic beauty, the figure of the Cangaço King, and the cangaceiros dance: the xaxado. Now, Serra Talhada, the slogan of which is "The Capital of the Xaxado", is considered a Brazilian reference in this subject, having gathered the whole history of the "Lampião" saga in a museum and become, according to specialists, "a true open-air museum".

Anchor 1


The first step of the project was carried out in June of 2019, six months after the field research in the municipalities of Serra Talhada and Triunfo, where the five transsexual women live. Each of them hosted the team at home for the main interview and then for images in external areas, in the square, local parties, neighborhood streets, university. The approach of recording with a smaller camera (Osmo Pocket) allowed them to feel comfortable while part of the team was assembling the main equipment.


Some of them introduced their mothers, who also gave an interview and in the case of one of them, the husband was also willing to record a statement and even dance in the living room of the house that was full of red curtains. We also recorded with two university teachers, considered the “mama” of one of them, and also with a goat herder and a civil servant who says he is part of a traditional family, who does not admit having gays and transsexual. In this stage we have drone images of the city, the Pageú river full of herons, the Serra do Bico do Papagaio - one of the highest peaks in Pernambuco - and the mountain range of Serra Talhada.

Cowboys ride among the characters dressed in the caatinga, between mandacarus and Christmas lights, in a place where the owner is proud to be in the same setting where Lampião would have given "the first big beating in the state".

The characters have different levels of education and work; there are peculiarities that make them unique and different from each other, but there are also similarities in regard to the origin of the desire for gender transition, in the statements of support and prejudice in the family and in the backlands society of Pernambuco.


Contact was intense but insufficient to reveal the tension between trans women and the community; between them and the mirror. They all state that they do not undergo hormonal treatment because they say they have been a woman forever. But they admit that they have thoughts of building a more feminine image. Do they not undergo treatment or surgical procedures because they are afraid, lack economic conditions or is this really no longer an issue for them?

There is a character that does not exist in the documentary and that would be essential to establish a comparison between the past and the present times in this region of semi-arid climate and rural economy. It is someone who lived only with the desire to make the transition between the four walls of his room. That perhaps has died without knowing freedom, the recognition of his identity as he saw himself within four walls. Out of fear or dependence on family approval, he lived and died without leaving the "closet". This "dead" character would be the link between yesterday's countryman and our characters today.


And to complete the investigation, a return to Pageú, will conclude the dynamics of a documentary that allows you to follow the lives of the characters at least two different times. What would have happened to them between the two meetings? We value the bond established at the same time that we open the way for more revelations, complicity, additional images and surprises. It is also intended to deepen the research on customs and traditions in Lampião's home town, investigating the gender and aesthetic issues that permeate the local community. What aspects of the characters' stories raise conflicts about gender in the Backlands of Pageú? The documentary intends to portray the relationships and daily lives of these characters to understand these issues. Through Rayanna, Palloma, Sabrina, Angelica and Desyrrê, other characters are intended to bring to the core of the documentary the tensions surrounding machismo, gender violence and the antagonism of this culture with Lampião's historic delicacy.


In the second stage of research and capture of the project, the documentary must find a link with the backlands of Pageú and deepen the research around this tension. When it comes to Cangaço, women were less portrayed, and Maria Bonita's story was mitified around a feminist image, however the violence they suffered was brutal, and in the 1930s this theme was invisible. The film must focus on this theme through interviews with historians and archival images, and also through the "dead" character who never presented himself to society as he would like for fear of atavistic violence in the region's atmosphere.



Documentary with an approximate duration of 90 minutes.


The testimonies of the five characters were recorded with three mirrorless cameras, always with natural light or window light. On the street, during the day or at night, the images were made with ambient light to enhance the realistic atmosphere of a documentary.


The Pageú River and hundreds of claws were recorded with a drone on a sunny morning and little movement on the road. In Triunfo, one of the highest points of Pernambuco, in the Serra do Bico do Papagaio, also by drone, offering a view of the great green and rocky valley during the sunset.


The documentary was idealised without off-screen narration, so that the interviews and "breaths" are the content without didactic explanations. The interviewees - the trans women, a family, two university teachers and two men from the community - will be linked by a wire conductor, in this case, the absent character, the "dead" of the past who did not come out of the closet.


Small decorative lights were hung on the cactuses to generate a colourful bokeh while the defocused lens wanders between faces and bodies in the raw nature of the Pernambuco backland. The characters look at the lens as if it were a mirror, with questions that they may have already solved, leaving us with the absence of definitive answers.


It is intended to maintain this aesthetic, seeking to portray scenes of the community and the landscapes of the backland, which are interspersed with the interviews.



Bianca Vasconcellos is a journalist and for 10 years was in charge of programs in the journalistic documentary format – a hybrid between documentary and great reporting, on TV Brasil, the Brazilian public broadcaster. She has been writing and directing journalistic documentaries that won awards in the field of Human Rights for 8 years (Herzog, International Committee of the Red Cross, Patrícia Acioli for Human Rights, finalist for the Esso Award) winner of the TAL Award (best report on public television in America Latina with the Paths of the Report “A War without a Hero”), Health (Roche International Journalism Award with“ Life on a Thread ”and Medtronic Journalism Award with “Medicine of the Future: reality or fiction? ”). In November 2018, the “liquid invisibilities” photographic work with transsexuals from São Paulo in an abandoned pool was selected to be shown at the Luz del Norte festival in two cities in Mexico - Monterrey and Mexico City. In November 2019, the “i am” photographic work with Japanese transsexuals in Tokyo was shown at the Akta Community Center in Shinjuko.


Patricia Iglecio is a young producer and researcher. Graduated in journalism, works in the development of documentaries projects. In 2019, worked as producer assistant in "Viagem de Bolso", a documentary series, transmitted by TV Brasil. In the same year, worked as executive and producer assistant in a feature film, during the post-produticion phase, that will be distributed by Fox Films. From 2018 to 2019, worked as producer and research assistant in the documentary "The Edge of Democracy", a Netflix original movie Oscar nominee (2019) as best documentary. In addition, from 2014 to 2017, worked in the creation of Revista Vaidapé, an indepedent project of journalism and audiovisual, having cordenated public notices to the development of community medias.



Alysson Souza



Jay Viegas e Luísa Vasconcellos



Jailton Costa


Laura Barbosa



Ana Maria Guidi



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