Originally published for its UK Premiere at Raindance 2018
TNC spoke with 3 siblings director Sheena Rossiter ahead of its UK Premiere at the 2018 RAINDANCE Film Festival in London.
Hi Sheena, how is everything going?
Everything is going very well. We are still on our film's festival run, and we are working on getting funding in order to expand this documentary short into a feature where we will follow Ludmylla's transition from male to female and the challenges that come up along the way as the family goes through the process. So far, the film has screened at 16 festivals in 8 countries and has won 4 awards. "3 Siblings" has also been broadcast on RTP, Portugal's national broadcaster, and on two OTT platforms, one in the US and one in Switzerland.
What does it mean for you to be at the 26th Raindance Film Festival with 3 Siblings?
We feel honoured and privileged to have our film screened at Raindance. This is my first time going through the film festival circuit and it's a huge victory for our documentary short "3 Siblings" to be screened not just once, but twice, at Raindance this year. It's a huge opportunity to have our film shown at such a large independent film festival and to meet other people from the film industry while at the event.
This is your UK Premiere are there any there nerves ahead of your screening?
I would say I'm definitely more excited than nervous. I lived in London for two and a half years and have a strong connection to the city. I am very excited to be showing my directorial debut in London.
Tell me a little bit about 3 Siblings, how did the film come about?
"3 Siblings" came about after working for nearly 7 years as a foreign correspondent in Brazil, living in Sao Paulo for just over two and a half years, and then in Rio de Janeiro for 4 years. My partner who is also the film's producer, Sandro Silva, was born and raised in Monte Azul, which is where the "3 Siblings" are from. In June 2016, we went to Sao Paulo from Rio where we were living at the time for our nephew's first birthday party. There, I noticed there was a trans person (Ludmylla) in the community. I asked Sandro about her but didn't think too much of it after that.
We then went on to carry out other projects in Rio de Janeiro around the Olympics and Paralympics and continued to work on documentary projects in that city. Fast forward to March 2017, and our niece, who is also our Goddaughter, was getting christened. We traveled to Sao Paulo for the party, and at the party, I noticed Victor, the gay brother. I asked Sandro about who he was, and he mentioned that it was Angelo's brother and that he's also Ludmylla's brother. After making that discovery that the three were related, I asked Sandro if we could do a documentary about the three siblings and their relationships with each other.
Sandro began to speak to the three siblings, and then they agreed to be followed around and filmed during Sao Paulo's LGBT Pride Month in June 2017.
What was the inspiration behind the concept of your film?
The film's the concept came about since we wanted to show a different story from the Brazilian favelas, which are all too often shown as places plagued by violence and is extremely poor. While we aren't denying that these places aren't poor or don't suffer from violence, we want to acknowledge that many people come from these communities, including LGBTQ+ people.
We also wanted to represent afro-Brazilians on screen. Brazil and mixed-race Brazilians make up over half of the country's 207 million people. Yet, when you see afro-Brazilians represented in the media or in Film and television, it's rare they get leading roles and are often depicted as maids or as criminals. We wanted to show a more positive side of the favelas, but also raising awareness around the difficulties that LGBTQ+ people face in Brazil due to prejudice and violence against that community as well.
You co-wrote 3 Siblings with Nadia Sussman, what was that experience like?
Nadia is a great friend of mine who was also a video journalist in Rio de Janeiro and who had worked alongside me when I lived there. It was a pleasure working with Nadia throughout the process. When we decided to make the film, we knew she would be a great person to ask to be a collaborator. her input was invaluable and helped make the film's narrative stronger.
What has been the most challenging part of making this film?
It was incredibly challenging making the film on such a low budget. We were lucky enough to have collaborators who were willing to work with us with reduced fees. It was also incredibly challenging to get this film to market since it is a short, and it's not in English. "3 Siblings" has been widely accepted by the LGBTQ+ community and we are very pleased about that.
Have you always had a passion for filmmaking?
I have also had a natural ability and passion for storytelling. I'm a journalist by trade and it was only a natural transition to get into documentary film while working as a video journalist in Brazil.
I am a very visual learner and remember things visually.
When I started to run production services through my company that I started with Sandro Silva, Dona Ana Films & Multimedia, for other documentary filmmakers and crews in Brazil, I truly learned a lot. It was inspiring and we truly learned a lot from each project. We were lucky enough to be based in Rio de Janeiro before, during and just after the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games. So many people came to Brazil to film during that time, particularly in Rio. It was a great opportunity for us to learn from some of the best documentary producers and teams in the world during that time.
"I hope it can also help shake misconceptions they have of the country, the city, and afro Brazilians."
What was the first film you saw that inspired you to become a director?
I can't remember the exact film that inspired me to become a director, but there are certain films that I have watched multiple times since they are so great. Snatch, Fight Club, The Shawshank Redemption, City of God.
In terms of documentaries, I quite like Favela Rising, Saving Face, and the ESPN 30 for 30 series.
How much has your approach to directing changed since your debut short film?
I wouldn't say my approach to directing has changed since "3 Siblings" has debuted, but I would say my approach to producing has definitely grown it's easier to focus on the bigger picture now.
How would you describe 3 Siblings in three words?
Queer, Sao Paulo, Favela.
Do you have any advice for any fellow directors?
Making a film is a long process, and it can be difficult and emotional at times. But keep going. The work will pay off.
What are you currently working on?
Currently, I'm in post-production for a documentary short entitled "The Eye of the Storm" about 3 female storm chasers from Alberta, Canada. I am also working on development for a travel show, and seeking out financing to make "3 Siblings" into a feature documentary.
And finally, what do you hope people will take away from this film?
I think people will have fun watching this film. For people who don't know Brazil, I hope they take away from it is an alternative perspective into what it's like to be from a favela (slum) in Sao Paulo, Brazil's largest city. I hope it can also help shake misconceptions they have of the country, the city, and afro Brazilians.
For Brazilians watching this film, I hope they can see a beautiful story of 3 siblings overcoming the challenges they face daily in Brazil.