By Valerie Milano
Los Angeles, CA (The Hollywood Times) 9/15/23 – Ary Zara is a man on a mission.
The Portuguese writer/director wants to foster new narratives about transgender people and give them power inside those narratives. It is a mission he lives every day as a transgender man. And his brilliant short film An Avocado Pit, showcases some very relevant and thoughtful views about his community and the world in which it must exist.
It begins with the film’s title, which he says is a metaphorical concept about being trans. In an exclusive interview with The Hollywood Times from his home in Lisbon, Portugal, Zara said he once planted an avocado pit and at one point, it stopped growing outwardly.
“I was like, ‘What is happening with this avocado? So, I changed the vase it was in, and saw it had a lot of roots and it was trying to expand,” he said. “So, from there I started thinking about this metaphor of all that happens inside of us that you can’t really see, but it’s already there.”
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Zara said that is where he saw the parallel to gender transition.
“We are trans. You might not be able to see it, or validate it, but it’s happening inside,” he said, adding that for transgender people, that it should be more than enough to have the knowledge of that inner transition.
“It’s more for us to focus on our little changes, our processes, and not have that urgency to run after something that will take time to appear,” Zara said.
The 20-minute film, which is in the Portuguese language with subtitles, follows the meeting of Larissa (Gaya de Mederios), a trans woman, and Cláudio (Ivo Canelas), a cis man, as their two worlds collide in a heartwarming story free from violence but rather filled with light and hope.
The pair meet when Larissa makes her nightly appearance on the corner with the other working girls in downtown Lisbon, and Cláudio takes up a vantage point across he street to watch the girls. Larissa boldly insinuates herself into the man’s car, much to his consternation. The ensuing conversation, which takes place throughout the course of an evening spent together, comprises the film’s story and spotlights important conversations about being transgender, as well as being cis gender and having an attraction for someone you intellectually see as being like yourself.
During the conversation, Larissa continually refers to herself in the third person, first telling Cláudio that despite appearances, she is not a prostitute.
“She says three times she is not a prostitute, but by seeing her on that corner with those other girls, we cannot say that she is not a prostitute, even though she says it one time, two times, three times,” Zara said, pointing out that he wrote it that way specifically to spark the conversation of trans visibility and perception.
“When she refers to herself in the third person, it is to feel safe,” he said. “Sometimes it is hard for us to communicate who we are without shame, so sometimes by referring to ourselves in the third person, it is almost like someone we can see, we can validate, but we know for some people, it is not how they are seeing us. So, it’s her way of seeking comfort when she is speaking of herself. “
As for Cláudio, he vehemently tells Larissa that he is not gay, to which Larissa replies, “I’m not either!” Zara said this is an important talking point for his film.
“I think it is difficult for cis heterosexual men to validate their desires and their attraction for someone who has the same genitals that they have,” he said. “Larissa is a woman and not a man, but because he thinks she has a penis, he’s suddenly threatened because in theory, she is man because of her genitals.”
Zara said this is far from the reality as gender and sex are two vastly different constructs.
“Gender is something completely different from anatomical sex,” he said, “and this is something we wanted to deconstruct through the film, to be able to think about these possibilities, and these political views of the world, separating gender from sex.”
An Avocado Pit is a masterful piece of filmmaking that certainly brings new narratives about transgender people and gives them power inside those narratives, which is Zara’s goal.
And so far, the film has caught the eye of festival audiences and judges alike worldwide. The film won the Oscar qualifying awards at both the recent Outfest Film Festival in L.A. and this year’s Guadalajara International Film Festival in Mexico, making it eligible for Academy Award consideration.
It also captured the Grand Jury Special Mention for Best Lead Acting at the 2022 AFI Fest, and the Best Queer Short Award and the International Student Prize at the 2023 Festival du Court Métrage de Clermont Ferrand, France.