Navigating machismo and homophobia in São Paulo – where do queer teens draw their resilience from?
In his film Socrates, filmmaker Alexandre Moratto gives us the story of 15-year-old Socrates. After the death of his mother, Socrates finds himself living on the outskirts of São Paulo, attempting to navigate life outside the system, while facing mounting debt, forced eviction, and the threat of being relocated into a youth home. Despite it all, Socrates is determined to survive on his own terms as he explores his sexuality while navigating a hostile world.
I caught up with Alexandre Moratto for a behind-the-scenes look at the film.
What was your inspiration for this story?
Watching my mother die was a very lonely and devastating experience. I was 24 years old at the time, and cut off from my family. I needed to express what I went through, but I didn’t want to make a film about myself.
Previously, when I was still a film student, I volunteered at a Unicef-supported film institute in Brazil that works with youth from low-income communities. I realised that I could still tell my story while representing the voice of people who are rarely shown on the screen, so I returned to them with the idea and we partnered to produce Socrates.
What was the production process?
I wrote the first draft in a week and pitched it to the institute. We jumped into casting and locations while I further developed the script with Thayná Mantesso, a young woman from the program, who brought her own voice and experiences to the project. From the first idea through to wrapping principal photography, it was a whirlwind six months.
What was your casting process?
We wanted the actors to be local, so we went to every school and theatre group in the region. Christian Malheiros – who plays Socrates – was actually the first person we auditioned out of a thousand guys. Both he and Tales Ordakji – who plays Maicon – were students at a prestigious drama school at the time.
The film shows a relatively bleak experience for Socrates following his mother’s death. How common is that experience of exclusion and rejection for young LGBTQ people in São Paulo?
Brazil seems progressive towards LGBTQ rights yet machismo and homophobia are embedded in the culture. In places such as the Baixada Santista where we filmed, we almost couldn’t find actors who were willing to play the roles.
Ultimately, this seems to be a story about resilience. Where was Socrates drawing that strength and determination from?
I think it’s better left unsaid because then each viewer can bring their own meaning and their own personal experiences to the film.
How do you hope that people feel when watching Socrates?
I hope each person will have a different experience and bring their own feelings and understanding.