Brazilian film “Valentina” wins Hivos Free to be Me Award

March 19, 2021

At the 2021 Pink Film Days festival, Hivos will present the Free to be me Award to “Valentina” – an impressive film from Brazil that powerfully portrays the importance of being – and embracing – oneself.

This 2020 production by director Cássio Pereira dos Santos stands up for the rights of (young) transgender people. The film tells the story of Valentina, a 17-year-old trans woman who moves to a small town with her mother to make a fresh start. Having been bullied in her old school, Valentina tries to enroll with her new name and in the hopes of keeping her transgender status a secret. However, she and her mother quickly face dilemmas when the local public high school needs a second parental signature for enrollment. The thing is, Valentina’s parents are separated.

Valentina demonstrates the effect a positive story can have.

Education for all

Cássio Pereira dos Santos also wants to give visibility to the plight of young transgender students in Brazil and other countries. “Eighty percent of all transgender students in Brazil drop out of school because of bullying and harassment from their classmates and teachers. But everyone has the right to an education. If these young people don’t get their diploma, it’s really hard for them to get a decent job and build a better life. Non-inclusive schools are where inequality starts for them,” he said during his acceptance speech.


A positive story

Valentina is a reflection of the real life hardships that Brazilian society forces a young woman to endure. But it also shows her strength and that of people around her, and how important the support of family and friends is. This is the film’s hopeful message. It demonstrates the effect a positive story can have, especially in a country like Brazil, where discrimination and stigmatization make it very unsafe for transgender people.

A transgender actress was cast to star in the film. Valentina is played by Thiessa Woinbackk, a popular influencer in Brazil. Through her own successful YouTube channel, she gives a glimpse into her life as a young trans woman and is a role model for young people who see themselves in her. In addition to Valentina, other young queer people are also portrayed powerfully in the film.


Free to be me Award

Hivos presents the Free to be me Award every year during the Pink Film Days festival. This is a prize for a film that contributes to LGBTIQ acceptance and visibility in a country where there is little room for diversity. The award provides an additional platform for this type of production and expresses our appreciation to each director personally.

The Hivos Free to be me Award will be presented for the fourth time this year. Previous winners are:

2020: Todos Cambiamos, Arturo Montenegro, Panama

2019: Rafiki, Wanuri Kahiu, Kenya

2018: Evening Shadows, Sridhar Rangayan, India