A well-done documentary short can launch you into a brand new world and give a brief glimpse of life through another’s eyes. 'O BABADO DA TOINHA' shows us the world of a Brazilian transgender woman as she goes through the process of preparing natural ingredients for her acaraje, a traditional Brazilian dish consisting of fried beans and onions.
Toinha, the subject of the documentary, is instantly likeable and draws the viewer in as she sings and cultivates natural ingredients. As she climbs trees and hacks away at their branches, she tells the camera about her youth. Her family ostracized her and tried to make her conform to their masculine ideals. They gave her a choice - either become macho, or carve out your own life. To Toinha, the choice was clear. She would leave and be free to live as she pleased; to live her truth.
Toinha seems so kind and joyful that it’s baffling that anyone could give her grief for her differences. She explains that she’s not concerned about what other people think - she takes pride in her appearance and also takes pride in her work. She explains that she cooks all of her food with a loving care and never uses chemical-filled ingredients. She wants her food to taste true and real, just like the ways she is true and real herself.
It is strangely comforting to watch her prepare her dishes - the transformative qualities of the palm oil are especially captivating. In this age of mass production, there is a calm beauty to watching palm oil bubble up and change from seeds into a gorgeously golden concoction. It is easy to admire Toinha’s dedication to her craft as she pounds away at the palm seeds with a large pestle. It is clear that she enjoys the work she does and the authenticity of her dishes.
The documentary does an excellent job of capturing Toinha’s infectious energy and the beauty of her culinary craft. When the ingredients have finally finished and are ready to use in a dish, the doc shows Toinha’s modest acaraje stand. There is a palpable energy to the scene, as a man plays on his accordion as eager customers line up to enjoy Toinha’s food. It feels as though the viewer has become privy to a quaint part of the world that they wouldn’t have had access to otherwise. 'O BABADO DA TOINHA' does an excellent job of uncovering this little hidden gem and displaying its beauty to a larger audience.