LIFFY 2022. “Creer y crear”: An Interview with Claudia Fischer, Director of Wërapara: chicas trans (in English)

October 28, 2022

In Wërapara: chicas trans, director Claudia Fischer follows the lives of a group of six trans women from the Embera Chami community, located in the Karmata Rua Indigenous Reservation in Colombia. In an interview with CLAIS, Fischer spoke about the experience of working with these women and capturing their personal struggles and artistic expressions. Read on for a preview of Wërapara, and watch the film yourself during the Latino & Iberian Film Festival at Yale on Saturday, November 12!

I understand that through your previous work you already had connections with some of the women who starred in Wërapara. How did all of you come to collaborate on this project together, especially given the deeply personal stories and moments it portrays?

Yes, through other projects I had already gotten to know a few trans-Indigenous members of the Embera Chami community. I was invited to London to follow the work they were doing there, and I ended up meeting two of the women featured in the documentary. After I had recorded some footage with them in London, and later in their homes in the Karmata Rua reservation, I was left thinking “I don’t only want to produce a project that visualizes their world; I also want to show the internal processes of being a trans-Indigenous woman.” I asked them if they wanted to continue to develop a larger project with me, and they responded “Yes, we’ll tell you our stories!” It wasn’t a very difficult decision, we just went little by little. 

What elements can documentaries like Wërapara capture that are absent from other forms of artistic expression?

What documentaries have that things like painting and sculpture do not is voice — the voice is a very important element. And the second element that these traditional art styles can’t capture is movement. Voice and movement allow you to prolong what would otherwise be finite moments, a process that you can repeat again and again. As for the documentary that I made, I knew that it would have to be very real, which meant letting the women go about their days and capturing key moments in their lives — this is how I work.

Wërapara includes not only your footage of the six cast members but also their own music and other artistic creations. How did you manage to weave together so many styles and forms into a coherent narrative?

When we reached post-production, we had to sort through footage from four separate cameras, choosing the colors and angles that the film should have. I wanted the documentary to have colors matching those used by the artist Gauguin, so throughout the film there is a reference to Gauguin’s palette. As for the other components, I didn’t bring everything together at once. We assembled things little by little, and the film gradually came together. I like to compare the documentary to a special type of necklace that the women wear in the film, the okama, which is made by putting little pieces together until they eventually produce one great piece of jewelry. As everyone on our team added ideas and pieces, we were able to create a great tapestry. 

The film is sending a message about the inclusion of people who are minorities within minority communities — which is the experience of being both trans and Indigenous. 

How has the public reception to Wërapara been so far?  

There are multiple levels of reception. First, when I finished the film I wanted the community itself to watch it to see what they thought and whether or not they agreed with the image I had created. It’s always possible that I, as someone from outside their community, portray them in a way that they don’t like. But the six women from the film were happy because we had gotten the essence of who they were. For the community in Bogotá, the film was screened only once. We had a great reaction. I thought the audience would only have about 80 people, but we had 280. It went great! At the level of film festivals, Wërapara is being received well in smaller festivals, and we have plans to take it to even more festivals like LIFFY! We are content because the film is sending a message about the inclusion of people who are minorities within minority communities — which is the experience of being both trans and Indigenous. 

Now that you have finished your collaboration with these women (at least for now), what is your wish for them and their journeys?

What I wish for them and their community is simple. I want them to be able to earn money, buy a piece of land, and build an Indigenous house in which they can hold religious ceremonies and practice their art. Having a house and income would give them a less fragile, more stable life.

What expectations or hopes do you have for your participation in LIFFY?

I hope these women are able to feel that they belong in this world. The experience of trans people is very individual, but it is also universal. I want our film’s inclusion in this festival to affirm to them and the public that they are human beings with free identities. 

By Charlie Mayock-Bradley, Student Program Assistant,