SÃO PAULO — Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has suspended public funding of LGBTI-specific television projects and films.
The decision, which was published in the Official Gazette on Aug. 21, specifically applies to four LGBTI productions and others from categories that include youth, quality of life, society and the environment.
Bolsonaro’s government has said the suspension, which will remain in place for 180 days, is necessary to compensate members of the Audiovisual Sectoral Fund Committee. The regulation also requires a review of the applied criteria to select projects.
Bolsonaro, on the other hand, in a Facebook Live video on Aug. 15 spoke about LGBTI-specific projects that were slated to receive federal funds. One of the things he said was he was able to search for government-funded projects with sexuality and LGBTI-specific issues on the go and he was planning to stop it since they shouldn’t receive public incentives.
“If someone from the private sector wants to put money into those productions that is fine,” said Bolsonaro. “But they won’t receive public money since these projects go against the values of traditional Brazilian families.”
It was, therefore, not a surprise when a week later the decision was made public.
A known homophobe, Bolsonaro incited anti-LGBTI prejudice and hatred during his campaign as he did when he represented Rio de Janeiro in the Brazilian Congress. But Bolsonaro’s son, Eduardo Bolsonaro, who has been nominated to become Brazil’s next ambassador to the U.S., during an interview with the PBS NewsHour last week said he was sure his father would love him if he were gay.
The president’s record is far from what Eduardo Bolsonaro claims, and that is why his decision about federal funding of LGBTI-specific television and film projects has already received strong reactions from both the audiovisual sector and from within the government itself.
Culture Secretary Henrique Pires resigned in protest against what he called censorship of public television projects as soon as Jair Bolsonaro made his announcement. Senator Fabiano Contarato challenged the decision in the Brazil’s Supreme Court, arguing it is unconstitutional.
LGBTI films were ‘building a story’
Julia Katharine, a transgender actress, screenwriter and director, has sharply criticized Jair Bolsonaro.
“LGBTIQ+ filmmaking was building a story,” she told the Washington Blade. “There were some advances in the last 10 years in visibility especially in regards of transgender issues. And now we arrived in a place where our stories are being censored.”
“As a trans filmmaker I ask myself where are we going to be in the next three years as we keep going with the Bolsonaro administration,” added Katharine. “It took so long for us as LGBTIQ+ people to recently arrive at a place of protagonism in some productions both in front and behind the camera and now our narratives are being censored.”
Katharine also told the Blade that LGBTI Brazilians “were still at the beginning of that visibility movement” and Bolsonaro “is trying to interrupt it.”
“It is like taking us back in the closet with fear, panic that we may not keep working,” she said. “There is an uncertainty around our employability. But it is important to make something clear to him and to the world: we won’t back down. We are certain that we will find a way to produce our content and keep doing our work. We’ll keep moving forward. They won’t shut us down.”