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    About Us: A Bittersweet Gay Romance from Brazil

    By Gary M. Kramer–

    About Us, now out on DVD, is a sexy, sweet—and bittersweet—romantic drama written, directed by, and starring out gay filmmaker Thiago Cazado. The film depicts the intimate relationship between Diego (Cazado), a photographer/filmmaker, and Matheus (Rodrigo Bittes) an architecture student. The couple is very much in love until a situation arises that threatens their happiness. Cazado’s low-budget debut may seem slight at first, but it becomes quite emotional as the lovers grapple with their possible separation.

    Using his friend João as an interpreter, Cazado recently chatted via Skype with me for the San Francisco Bay Times. Cazado said that he was prompted to make the film because, “I have been an actor since I was a child. I’ve always liked to write. But being an actor for the theater, I played roles and characters that weren’t ‘mine.’ I was inspired to start writing my own ideas and characters, and I always liked gay movies.”

    About Us is not about a specific relationship Cazado had, but it reflects the emotions he had from a past relationship. The beauty of his film is how he captures the romantic dynamic between Diego and Matheus. Scenes such as Diego playfully teasing Matheus in the kitchen with a sponge, or Matheus’ dangerous act of hanging out a moving car’s window, came from Cazado’s life. But the film really reflects the difficulties of the filmmaker having a relationship because of his dedication to his work.

    Wisely, the film’s drama does not point fingers at a “bad guy.” Cazado says this was a deliberate decision: “I don’t want you to judge anyone, or for me to judge anyone in the film. I wanted to concentrate on the beautiful things that this relationship gave me. That’s why I created a fictional [story] rather than one from real life. To me, the movie is almost like a fairy tale. I took the best memories I had from a relationship and I tried not to focus on the bad things with my partner. When you watch the film, you can’t say this character is bad or good. It’s mixed. I don’t want to make someone the villain. I wanted them to be human.”

    One of the ways Cazado achieves this is by not giving the gay characters a struggle other than if they will stay together. There is no coming out angst or family drama, and no self-hatred or homophobia.

    Cazado observed, “It’s common to watch gay-themed films on these topics. I wanted to make a film that did the opposite. I think making a film this way could change opinions. Here in Brazil, being gay has a stigma—they are a ‘dirty person.’ I wanted to show gays having a normal and happy life and being accepted. I wanted to get away from what you expect from a ’gay’ movie. It is a political way to do it.” He added, “We gay men still have troubles, though.”

    The characters in About Us struggle in their relationship. This was important for the filmmaker to depict. He explained, “I think being in a relationship with someone sometimes leads to a couple going in different directions. Sometimes, one person tries to hide it because they don’t know how to handle it. I believe this is the case with Matheus and Diego. They didn’t have the necessary conversation about their issues. Diego doesn’t have this courage. In the end, the discussion is:  What do I prefer? Do I stay, and be in a relationship, and live as a couple? Or do I be on my own and live my life?”

    That said, the intimacy on screen between the two guys is palpable. Cazado described how he and his co-star got along on screen. “I don’t like to force things,” he said. “I tell my actors not to ‘act,’ but to ‘be.’ I always tell them to do what they need to be present in the moment. Do not force it. If you want to cry, you should cry. Be real—as much as you can; do not lie to the camera. Rodrigo and I just looked in each other’s eyes, and we were just there, living it.”

    The closeness between Cazado and his co-star extends to the film’s sex scenes, which are quite erotic. The filmmaker deliberately included nude scenes for his character, because he thought they were “necessary.” He admitted, “It doesn’t make sense to create a film with that level of intimacy without the characters being naked. I think the nude scenes are really beautiful.” Moreover, they—ahem—help to flesh out the love story.

    Cazado continued, “I am really proud of my body. I made a promise—I don’t know to whom—but I will be naked in every film I make!” Then he demurred, “Just kidding!”

    Nude or not, hopefully Cazado will make many more films. About Us is an auspicious queer feature debut that beautifully captures the Brazilian feeling on saudade, or feelings of longing, melancholy, and nostalgia.

    © 2018 Gary M. Kramer

    Gary M. Kramer is the author of “Independent Queer Cinema: Reviews and Interviews,” and the co-editor of “Directory of World Cinema: Argentina.” Follow him on Twitter @garymkramer