British Council Plural Program – Susan Thomson Artist Residency

Tybyra 19 copy

On December 1st, Instituto Mesa, with the support of the British Council’s Plural Program, will launch the docufiction – Tybyra and the Harlequin (2022) at the Cinemateca do MAM, followed by a debate with filmmaker Susan Thomson and special guests Azizi Cypriano, Fabio Scarano and Okara Yby with mediation by Mariana Baltar. Result of the online artistic residency project, the short makes connections with LGBTQIA+ issues and rights, climate change, racism and indigenous populations in Brazil and the attempt to make ecocide an international crime. The short film features several interviews that will also contribute to a case study in the next issue of Revista MESA to be released in 2023.

Tybyra and the Harlequin (2022) is a dance docufiction based on two stories told together in dance, poetry and documentary, featuring performance artist Ombá Yîàrá. There is the historical story of Tybyra, an indigenous gender non-conforming person, who in 1613 was tried and sentenced by French colonials in Brazil, and subsequently shot from a canon into the sea. And the story of the Harlequin, based on a court case in the Intag valley in Ecuador involving a harlequin longnose frog, thought to be extinct and then rediscovered thirty years later in 2016. Its special protected status as a result of perceived extinction led to its winning one stage of an ongoing court case, stopping a copper mine project from going ahead, although a final decision is now imminent in the case. The film explores ideas of rights of nature and ecocide law as well as questions of racism and colonialism and their effect on indigenous peoples and the Afro Brazilian diaspora through the historical control of bodies, in terms of labor, race, gender and sexuality. Directed by the artist Susan Thomson, the short was developed as part of an artist residency with Rio de Janeiro based Instituto MESA over the course of 2022 supported by the Plural Program of the British Council, with cinematography by two students of art and cinema at Universidade Federal Fluminense, respectively, Rai do Vale and Isabella Moriconi and music by Billy Kenrick.

Tybyra and the Harlequin (2022)
Writer and Director: Susan Thomson
Directors of Photography: Rai do Vale and Isabella Moriconi
Production: Jessica Gogan, Luiz Guilherme Vergara, Sabrina Curi
Dance performance artist: Ombá Yîàrá
Composer: Billy Kenrick
Drums, song: Rai do Vale
Animation: Isabella Moriconi
Editor: Susan Thomson
Additional editor: Rai do Vale
Subtitles Port/Eng: Isabella Moriconi
Voice-over: Ombá Yîàrá, Susan Thomson
Drone photography: Francisco Teicher, Luis Magalhães
Additional photography: Mika Peck, Susan Thomson
Interviewees: Maite Mompó, Diosmar Filho, Felipe Milanez, Arissana Pataxó, Mika Peck
Maps courtesy of Diosmar Filho and Amazônia Legal Urbana
Acknowledgments: Barbara Arisi, Cristina Becker, Fernanda Bozolan, Rafael Ferraz, Andy Hamill, Fran Lambrick, Cezar Migliorin, Felipe Milanez, Juliana Radler, Rede Wayuri, Felix Padel, Mika Peck, Vicky Ro, Zuky Serper, Noga Shanee, Effie Vourakis, Centre for World Environmental History, University of Sussex, Laboratório de Pesquisa e Experimentação em Imagem e Som – Kumã, Universidade Federal Fluminense – Cinema e Audiovisual

The story of Tybyra is documented in the book Gay Indians in Brazil: Untold Stories of the Colonization of Indigenous Sexualities by Estevão Rafael Fernandes and Barbara M. Arisi

This film was made during an artistic residency with Instituto MESA, Brazil, supported by the British Council’s Plural Program

International Support: British Council
Producer: Instituto MESA

Director/Filmmaker: Susan Thomson

International Support: British Council Plural Program