Brazilian Queer Artist Bia Leite Boards Joao Paulo Miranda Maria’s ‘Goddess of the Water’ (EXCLUSIVE)

Brazilian queer artist Bia Leite has joined “Goddess of the Water,” a project from one of the most sought-after of young Brazilian directors, João Paulo Miranda Maria, whose first feature, “Memory House,” was the only Latin American feature chosen for last year’s Cannes Festival Official Selection.

“Memory House” went on to be selected for the Toronto and San Sebastián festivals.

Set up at Paris-based Les Valseurs, which scored an Academy Award nomination for the Tunisian village-set live action short film “Nefta Football Club,” by Yves Piat, “Deusa das Aguas” (“Goddess of the Water”) has been selected for this year’s Immersive Selection at Rotterdam Film Festival’s co-production market, CineMart. Sales rights are handled by Diversion Cinema.

With Leite on board, the immersive film and art installation is now rapidly shaping up as a collaboration between Miranda María, who was signed up last year by CAA, and Leite. It will combine a 10-minute virtual reality film and an exhibition expanding the film’s universe through the world of Brazil’s voguing scene, said Les Valseurs’ Justin Pechberty, the project’s producer.

Backed by France’s National Film Board (CNC), “Goddess of the Water” is set to shoot next summer in north Brazil’s stunning Lençóis Maranhenses National Park – a mix of 40 miles of Atlantic Ocean beaches, sand dunes and freshwater lagoons during the rainy season – where “fantasy becomes a way of self-acceptance and rejection of conservatism,” Pechberty said in a video presentation.

Inspired by a Leite painting at a 2018 exhibition in Brazil, “Queermuseum: Cartographies of Difference in Brazilian Art,” which was shut down after far-right protests, then re-instated to much jubilation, “Goddess of the Water” is the story of Weslei, a young boy who wants to be a mermaid in a girl’s body – a super-hero for Weslei. His main challenge is his violent and repressive father.

The exhibition will invite the audience to enter Weslei’s imagination and extend the experience of the 360 film, Miranda Maria said, adding that he also wants spectators of “Goddess of the Water” “to feel the violence exerted by society” on Weslei, via moments of complicity when the boy shares his sorrow.

Experiencing Leite’s exhibition, the audience will recognize the places and objects from Weslei’s world. “Her paintings will talk to all the people who, just like Weslei, suffer from discrimination,” Miranda Maria added.

Audiences “will experience the beauty of an awakening self-knowledge, the desire for freedom in the face of the cruelty and violence of homophobia and prejudices that refer to our times,” Pechberty concluded.

“Memory House” won the Roger Ebert Award at October’s 56th Chicago Intl. Film Festival. Miranda Maria is now preparing two new feature films, one his English-language debut, with Rodrigo Teixeira’s Sao Paulo-based RT Features, producer of Luca Guadagnino’s “Call Me By Your Name,” James Gray’s “Ad Astra” and Karim Aïnouz’s “The Invisible Life.”

The first feature project, “Flag,” whose development was initiated at Les Valseurs, its French producer, is a revenge thriller to be shot in the Amazon rainforest.

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