Tinta Bruta (translated ‘Hard Paint’) opened this year’s International Queer & Migrant Film Festival in colour. Set in the Brazilian town of Porto Alegre, the feature film follows the introverted young Pedro (played by Shico Menegat) who earns his money online by smearing his body with neon paint and performing quasi-erotic dances in front of the camera. With his nickname ‘Neon Boy’, he attracts a wide audience and seems to only be able to connect to people through the world wide web while performing his persona. Whenever the web camera is turned off, Bruno is a socially awkward, unapproachable man who lives in a decaying apartment with his sister. Once he meets ‘Boy25’ (Leo, played by Bruno Fernandes), his virtual, neon paint rival, his life starts to take a different turn. The two of them start performing webcam shows together and gradually develop an intimate connection to each other. Tinta Bruta is not just a queer love story, it is rather a film about loss, isolation and the millennial everyday struggle.
The directors Filipe Matzembacher and Marcio Reolon created a narrative that encompasses today’s youth precarious existence as well as the Brazilian LGBTQ’s struggle. While Bruno is using the internet as a form of escapism, he is also inevitably confronted with the increasingly claustrophobic reality of his town. The houses in his neighbourhood are falling apart and young people are leaving town to follow their dreams in bigger cities. Those who remain are the conservative, judgmental stares that Bruno, as a queer man, has to deal with whenever he leaves his flat. The film blurs the boundaries between the private and the public, making its audience unable to distinguish what is supposed to be seen and what is a rather voyeuristic intrusion into the characters’ lives. This aspect of the film once again comments on our relationship to social media and the way we share our everyday lives on it. The day Bruno’s computer is destroyed by the rain, the young man does not see the point in his persona of Neon Boy and takes the first steps to live life outside of the web and dance in nightclubs rather than in his isolated room. Additionally, a sad reality for most LGBTQ-people in Brazil is the struggle between what is to be kept behind closed doors and what is to be taken out of the closet. Hard Paint expresses this very elaborately.
It is a perfect timing for Matzembacher’s and Reolon’s film. Having just recently elected a far right, homophobic, and xenophobic president Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil is going through turbulent, conservatism-driven times, when challenging heteronormativity and gender roles is a big must.
Hard Paint is a perfect example of an artwork that incorporates diversity, acceptance but also the paranoia that goes through everyone’s minds in Brazil at the moment. Unusually political, Hard Paint is clearly saying that Brazil will resist and won’t let itself be contained by Bolsonaro’s political destructive agenda.