WASHINGTON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A decision by distributors not to release a film about gay conversion therapy has stirred controversy in Brazil and provoked dismay among the country’s LGBT activists.
Boy Erased, which was scheduled for release across Brazil between January and February this year, is an adaptation of the eponymous memoir by author Garrard Conley and follows his experience attending a gay conversion therapy center in the US.
The announcement last week from Universal Pictures that it would no longer be releasing the film in Brazil has ignited fierce debate about whether the decision was politically motivated, particularly given the election last year of far-right president Jair Bolsonaro, a man who once famously said he would prefer his son “died in an accident” than bring home a male partner.
However, in an emailed statement, the company told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that the decision was made purely for financial reasons: “Universal Pictures will not be releasing Boy Erased in theaters solely and exclusively for commercial reasons based on the cost of the launch campaign compared to the estimated box office sales.”
But rights campaigners say that political or not, the decision is disappointing, particularly given the difficulties facing Brazil’s gay and trans community.
“I would even say it’s a little irresponsible,” Leandro Ramos, a Brazilian activist and director of programs at international LGBT+ rights group All Out told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“Particularly in a country like Brazil, where conversion therapy is still such an epidemic and such a big issue, and in a moment when you have an openly anti-LGBT administration in place.”
Gay conversion therapy has been prohibited by Brazil’s Federal Council of Psychology (CFP) since 1999, but in September 2017, a federal judge overruled the ban, and although the CFP still condemns these so-called gay cures, campaigners say the practice continues.
“There are psychologists and therapists around the country that still offer this kind of service,” said Ramos. “The big thing is that it’s fairly underreported - a lot of people that go through this kind of procedure don’t report it.”
According to filmmakers behind Boy Erased, many in Brazil were hoping the film would help shine a light on the discredited practice.
“A lot of the communication that was coming from Brazilian [LGBT+] people was that they really wanted this material, they really wanted a story that reflected something that they’re seeing in their current society,” David Craig, an actor and co-producer on the film, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“I think it’s a shame that they don’t get to see that on the platform that we originally designed it for. That’s a sad thing.”
The movie will be released for home viewing, though Universal Studios was unable to say when.
Reporting by Oscar Lopez; Editing by Jason Fields; Please credit the 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 news.trust.org