RIO DE JANEIRO (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro posted on social media that funding for movies with LGBT+ themes was being suspended, a decision that was published on Wednesday on the country’s official web site.
The newly elected conservative who once described himself as a homophobe hinted during a live stream last week that he would change the process for government-funded film projects, saying funding LGBT+ themed screenplays is “throwing money away.”
The decision, signed by Brazil’s minister of Citizenship Osmar Terra, suspends about R$ 70 million ($17.42 million) from the government’s grant which would fund some 80 screenplays, including a fraction with LGBT+ themes.
“It’s a surreal sensation,” said director Emerson Maranhao about having his work publicly criticized by the president. “I don’t quite believe it yet.”
“The first project he called out (during the live stream) was ours, and in such a pejorative and dishonoring way,” he told Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Maranhao’s screenplay, “Transversais,” a five part documentary series about the life of five transgender people in northeastern Brazil, applied to receive R$ 400,000 ($99,532).
“He is harming 80 projects just to get to ours,” said Maranhao, adding “It’s terrifying.”
The suspension is set to last for up to 360 days, during which the government will restructure the committee responsible for allocating the fund’s resources. The committee would then review how state funds are used.
Filmmakers affected by the suspension plan legal action to block Bolsonaro’s decision.
Besides “Transversais,” Bolsonaro mentioned “Afronte,” a film series about gay black men living in Brazil’s capital, and two other screenplays.
Bolsonaro, who took office on a populist campaign targeting the opposition’s corruption and economic ineptitude, told an interviewer in 2013, as a congressman, “I’m a homophobe, yes, and very proud of it, if it is to defend children at school.”
Marcus Azevedo, one of the directors of “Afronte,” said he was “disgusted for having a president that is willing to censor cultural projects.”
The new president, elected last year, has since taking office also declared that the country should not be known as a gay tourism destination because “we have families.”
Reporting by Fabio Teixeira; Editing by Chris Michaud. Please credit Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit www.trust.org