Director Elia K. Schneider

<em>Tamara </em>

Lest progressive Americans think we’re out in front of the world’s transgender movement, take the life of Tamara Adrian, who rose from discrimination in academia and elsewhere to become a prominent politician in Venezuela. This narrative film fictionalizes her saga, but keeps all of the drama and emotions intact. See widemanagement.com/tamara.

What do you think American audiences will think of Tamara’s story?

Every time I talk to one of my friends here in the the U.S., they all know about transgender people, they have a lot of information. But after you dig in a little, you can tell the information has not been introjected; it stays in the surface. You hear about all kind of studies and surveys made in universities all around the country where a big majority don’t recognize the right to choose for transgender people.

A good example is the use of the public restrooms by transgenders, where a majority of people surveyed oppose that transgender people should be allowed to use restrooms by their choice but require them to use it by the biological sex stated in their birth certificate. So this clearly indicates that people don’t understand the information they get.

For a transgender person, it is not a game or a superficial decision choosing their gender. It is a real need. They don’t recognize themselves in the gender they were born biologically and it is pivot for their lives to go for it.

So what I hope is that people understand that, and can have an emotional reaction to the character story. I think this film is about a character who needs to be who she really is, but it is also a film that deals with the importance of inclusion and being open to different views of life. I think the transgender community is one of the most vulnerable issues today. It is very important for all of us to understand and get active.

How close did you stick to the details of Tamara’s life story?  

The film was inspired by Tamara Adrian’s life and others transgender people. I didn’t want to stick to the biographical part. Tamara is a brilliant lawyer, university professor, and world activist in favor for the human rights fighting for the LGBT and the transgender community and an elected congresswomen of the National Assembly in Venezuela. But I didn’t want to be chained to one reality. I needed the freedom to create the fiction and the world in which this character lives. It is very complex issue and the story had to have the freedom to be developed independently of her life. This is not a story where you look for a message. What you want as a director is get the audience to get immerse in the character life and feel what the characters feels in her circumstance. 

Do you have any personal connections to the transgender community?  

Not directly, but I relate to this community like I relate to any minority that has been excluded or left out by prejudice or violation of their rights. I am the daughter of survivors of the holocaust. My parents were excluded and suffer a lot. I get very sensitive and active when I feel people don’t have the same rights or are being excluded because of race, religion, sex, or any kind of human condition that is not accepted. I’ve dealt with these issues since I was a kid and, after I started my artistic life, in all of my former theater plays and films.

What challenges are there in making a biopic about a person who is still alive?  

I don’t know because I didn’t do a biopic. In this film in particular, I had to be careful not to lose the fiction, because I had Tamara’s life in my head all the time. And to make that space, to get the distance from reality  is not easy. You know too much of the person’s life that inspires your story and you want to include everything in the film but then you understand you need to tell the character’s story and not tell the real life of the person. You have only two hours to do it. I think there is more reality and truth in the fiction than in the real person’s life. Fiction has its own rules.

How are transgender people treated in Venezuela?  

Transgender people are not treated well in Venezuela. There isn’t an antidiscriminatory law that protects them. All kind of abuses happen everyday. They are bullied by the government authorities and the police. There are many hate killings. In Venezuela, we don’t live in a democracy. Law is whatever the government wants, whenever the government feels. Abuse and violence is part of everyday life, and the LGBTI and specially the transgender people are suffering a huge discrimination day by day. We have an homophobic society. We call it “machismo.”

Have their lives improved because of the film? 

Tamara was the most important box office success in Venezuela this year. I assume that if people are responding in this way to go to see the film , they are also talking in their kitchens and living rooms about transgender persons and the LGBTI community in Venezuela.

How is she doing today? 

Tamara is a very respected and very known authority today in Venezuela, working very hard to protect her community as a lawyer, as a leader, and also politically. 

Did she see the film? If so, what was her reaction?

She saw the film and she liked it very much and she believes it is a very important film because it captures part of the true life of the transgender people. Tamara was also advisor in the screenplay and has the role in the film, the dean of the Catholic University, where she worked in real life. 

What do you hope for the film’s future?

You never know what can happen , but I hope people can think and debate about the theme after they go out of the cinema. I would be very pleased if this happen.


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