By Roger Costa
THE GARDEN LEFT BEHIND
Brazilian Director Flavio Alves’ debut feature is an accomplished tale of compassion, transition and activism against transgender violence. A gorgeously shot and insightful transitional story, the film is a complex study on Tina, a taxi driver struggling with identity in New York City. She lives with her grandmother with whom she has a tender, very close relationship. Her grandmother accepts the way she is, though yet confused by the circumstances she insists on calling her “Antonio”, her birth name. Tall, attractive and charismatic, Tina has a strong, firm presence in public, something that leads her to comfort those around her- inside her taxi, around the neighborhood, at the grocery store, hanging out with her girlfriends.
She dates a Latino man for two years and they dream of her operation, as she enters she visits doctors to evaluate her condition. But things are more complicated. Her undocumented status doesn’t favor her beneficial opportunities, such as a quality job to maintain her grandmother and fulfill her surgery needs. Director Flavio composes a precious, vibrant and highly emotional drama about finding your identity and fighting against violence. Brilliantly observed, he digs up her personal crisis (hormonal, professional, emotional), her financial and documental troubles as a master of storytelling, crafting an accurate, intimate and subtly erotic drama. On the other side of the community, the film attaches the intriguing and mysterious story of a bullied Grocery clerk, who is obviously a closet gay case, spending his free time hanging out and watching porn with a bunch of other losers. He has a creepy, deeply disturbing quiet behavior and becomes interested on Tina as she regularly shops at his working place.
Massively awarded at many Festivals around the Globe and Winner of the Audience Award at SXSW, Writer-Director-Producer Alves also succeeds in both political comments: the negligence over the marginalized -Tina and her friends start an activist movement calling for rights as a trans named Rosie was brutally attacked by two cops- and immigration issues, Tina is still waiting for a chance to become legal in the country, in opposition to her grandmom’s wish to return to their native Mexican gardens of the title. The relationships she develops is also masterly effective and tender: her devotion to her grandmom, the trust and reliability on her girlfriends, the loyalty to her boyfriend, the intimate conversations with her much older analyst, her clients either at the taxi or the bar counter.
Entirely efficient, well acted, uplifting and heart-moving, a new cinematic voice has been born.
(Queens Pictures. 8/28 in Virtual Cinemas and 9/8 on VOD.)