Trajetos (Routes), a film produced by Rio de Janeiro-based audiovisual collective Canal Plá, will premier this Saturday August 12 at 8pm in Nova Iguaçu in the Praça dos Direitos Humanos (Human Rights Square). The film uses previously unedited footage from the YouTube series by the same name, which features six vignettes that explore the role of public transportation in the lives of residents of Greater Rio, from Rio’s North Zone and the Baixada Fluminense to Niterói. Unlike the web series, the film will not be available online. The screening will be hosted by CineClub Buraco do Getúlio, a film club dedicated to screening short films and hosting cultural events in Nova Iguaçu, a municipality in Rio’s Baixada Fluminense suburbs.
Canal Plá’s tagline is “producing memory,” and given the hours a day residents experience commuting—metropolitan Rio has some of the worst indices of urban mobility in Brazil—the stories captured in Trajetos show that worthwhile memories are often produced in the most mundane of places. One of the “road series” web episodes, “Mesquita x Central do Brasil,” features a young woman and man from Mesquita that would often see each other on this particular line. At first too shy to speak to one another, they eventually ended up starting a relationship and getting married after finally breaking the ice on the bus.
The film’s director and Canal Plá’s founder, José Alsanne, grew up in Nova Iguaçu. “Filming inside the buses that circulate throughout these cities was an idea that we’ve had since 2015, when Canal Plá began,” said Alsanne in the film’s press release. “I spent many years of my life losing six hours a day commuting [to university at the Pontifical Catholic University, PUC] and this experience motivated me to tell these stories. More than just talking about urban mobility and its deficiencies, we wanted to present stories and the relationships that exist [on public transportation]. How do people deal with this daily stress and what are the contradictions at play in the affective relationships that people create on their bus or train line? This is what we sought out.”
The web series began with calls for stories on Canal Plá’s Facebook page. They received so many that it was difficult to choose just six stories to tell. The film and web series pass through five cities in Greater Rio, four bus lines (one within Rio’s city limits and another within Duque de Caxias and two inter-municipal buses), one train line (the Japeri line from the Nova Iguaçu neighborhood of Austin to Central do Brasil train station), and one daily bicycle commute within Niterói followed by a ferry ride, giving a sense of the multiple ways that residents move through and experience the metropolitan region.
Along with stories of romance, many of the protagonists use their time in transit, which like Alsanne himself can be up to six hours a day, to chat with other commuters and bus drivers, to write poetry and raps, or reflect on a number of issues they face from racism to transphobia to obesity. This mirrors Canal Plá’s own mission “to bring to spectators an awareness of issues, realities, and demands from groups and social causes that have historically been ignored by the mainstream media due to a lack of interest, and principally, for the editorial line of many of these print and television outlets.”
Public transportation makes many of these social stigmas even more acute, as it accentuates the inequalities of metropolitan Rio. “For me, it’s by bus that I end up gaining access to things that I don’t have here. And this is very painful, you know,” explains Lidi de Oliveira, who takes the bus from Parque Paulista in Duque de Caxias to Central do Brasil. “The bus for me very much symbolizes the separation between these territories, but it is also the bridge between them. A bridge that is falling apart, that needs to be mended in places, but it’s a bridge that exists and we’re filling the gaps to form these bridges between territories.”