On the Scene: Private Desert (Deserto Particular) Special Screening

Brazil is sending a queer love story to the Oscars.


Private Desert (Deserto Particular), Brazil’s submission for this year’s Academy Awards, tells a love story between a gender nonbinary youth and a disgraced ex-cop in a society that doesn’t accept them.

The film’s director, Aly Muritaba, sat down for a post-screening Q&A at the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens on November 20.

Muritaba began by answering whether Brazil’s right-wing president, Jair Bolsonaro, would appreciate the film. “I believe Bolsonaro would not be happy, especially with his history of homophobia,” he said via a translator.

He said the film received funding before Bolsonaro’s administration. But now that he is in power, Muritaba said LGBT art has faced more “censorship.” In response to Bolsonaro’s crackdown, Muritaba said the film is “fighting fascism with love.”

Muritaba — who identifies as a straight, cis man – discussed how he had aimed to be respectful and authentic to the experiences of his characters. He said he consulted with many trans women and made sure to have the actor who played the nonbinary lead be nonbinary themselves. He said LGBT people worked in front and behind the camera. “The [LGBT] community was present all the way,” he said.

Muritaba was asked about how his previous job as a prison guard informed his storytelling. “Listen to people,” the director said.

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