Synopsis: Gabriela Leite is the first known sex worker to run for Brazilian Congress. “A Kiss for Gabriela” (28 minutes) accompanies her 2010 campaign as she faces 822 opponents and challenges the male dominated political system to see if a sex worker, activist, wife, mother, and cultural icon can beat the odds and win the election. Status: Completed.

gabriela_posterProstitution is a legal profession in Brazil, yet it is still heavily stigmatized. Gabriela Leite has dedicated the past thirty years of her life to trying to change this, making her perhaps the most well known, and controversial, prostitute activist in Brazil. She founded the Brazilian Network of Prostitutes, an NGO for sex worker rights called Davida, has authored two autobiographies, and gained status as a cultural icon after founding Daspu, a clothing line to promote sex worker rights that has been featured in the international mass media. Despite her political activism, her 2010 campaign was the first time she sought to enter the predominantly male and economically privileged circle of Brazilian Federal Deputies. Website / Facebook / Twitter

Combining an observational style with unrestricted access, this 55-minute documentary follows Gabriela’s journey as a charismatic candidate full of contradictions. Scenes of her embarrassed to hand out pamphlets contrast with her openly talking about having had three illegal abortions in campaign speeches. Invitations to exclusive parties are set against her struggle to run a campaign with virtually no money and being evicted from her campaign headquarters in a historic sex motel. Images of her cooking for her husband, refusing a bribe from an Evangelical pastor, behind the scenes at popular television talk shows, singing her favorite sambas, working alone late at night, and crying as she votes for herself for the first time form the backdrop to this intimate portrait of a remarkable woman whose reasons for notoriety and prominence are the same reasons that make the possibility of her election impossible. Although Rio de Janeiro voters did not elect Gabriela, in “A Kiss for Gabriela,” we see that it is not whether you win or lose, or even how you play. For women like Gabriela that challenge stereotypes and make history with their campaigns, it’s that you’re in the game.

Winner “Best Documentary Pitch” at the Fusion Film Festival in March of 2011. Selected for Margaret Mead Film Festival, Athena Film FestivalKansas City FilmFestArizona International Film FestivalMujeres en Foco International Film Festival, FEMINA – International Women’s Film Festival, Rio de Janeiro, Brasil, Sex Workers Film Festivals in Hamburg, Germany, San Francisco, and Kolkata. Finalist for the – Prêmio Pierre Verger de Video Etnográfico Associação Brasileira de Antropologia, (Brazilian Anthropological Association).

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LAURA MURRAY has worked with sex worker rights groups internationally since 2000 as a researcher, activist, and filmmaker. A Kiss for Gabriela is her third documentary film about sexuality in Brazil: she co-produced one about an HIV prevention intervention with sex workers and co-directed and produced a short about a transvestite samba school president living on the border of Brazil and Bolivia that is currently in post-production. Laura is a PhD Candidate in Medical Anthropology at Columbia University where she is writing her dissertation about sex worker activism, media, and citizenship in Brazil. She has published journal articles on sexuality and HIV in Brazil in Social Science and Medicine, Culture Health and Sexuality, and the American Journal of Public Health in addition to a book of the life histories of sex workers in the Dominican Republic.