Brazilian-born writer, director and actress Natalia Leite presented her filmography this past Tuesday as part of the film forum at Montclair State University. This film forum was different than others due to Leite’s work containing a lot of sexuality. The sexuality in her work has been described as emotional intelligence, and critics praised her for being brave and putting herself out there.
In addition to Leite showing her webisodes and short films, she talked about her career and her origin story as a filmmaker. Out of the three film forums this semester, this presentation was by far the most personal.
The first work that Leite presented to the class was her acclaimed series “Be Here Nowish.” The audience had the privilege of seeing three episodes, and when it was over, applause erupted in the room. Leite shared with the class that the budget was quite minimal for the series. She also stated that the first season had a lot of improvising, and that her crew was solely focused on wanting to make good content.
“The music in the series was from bands that were friends of ours,” Leite said. “We did not have much budget, but the experience was rewarding.”
After Leite talked about how her show turned out more successful than she and her crew had anticipated, she talked about the beginning of her filmmaking career. She told the class that she did not attend film school — instead, she attended art school in San Francisco. Leite then moved to New York, did an internship and eventually started filming. The discussions then led to her playing her documentary feature, “Every Woman.” “Every Woman” starred Leite and her friend Alexandra Roxo, where they pose as strippers and deal with people who overstep the boundaries.
When the documentary feature finished, some members of the audience shared their overall thoughts on Leite and how she handled her sexuality in her work. Most of the students felt that she was brave and they admired what she said. Some other students were not comfortable with what they saw, and some walked out of the presentation.
Even though this topic can be controversial for many people, Leite is comfortable with dealing with it in her work. Leite’s work featured themes such as HIV, rape and homosexuality. All of these sorts of themes were explored in different ways, and even though these themes are portrayed in “Be Here Nowish,” there are comedic moments.
“I love talking about sexuality,” she said. “It’s a broad and ambiguous topic.”
Leite’s feature film debut “Bare” premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival and is now on Indiewire’s Filmmakers To Watch list. She talked about how producing the film was really difficult because she had to fundraise independently.
“I send my script to the producers,” Leite said. “I waited years. So, I had to fundraise independently.”
Leite said as a result, she prefers making short films and webisodes because they do not take nearly as much time as a film, and she has more freedom. However, her next film, “MFA,” is currently in production and will explore themes that are similar to her previous works. The class was shown the trailer, and after it was over, everyone in the film forum, including the moderator, Professor Roberta Friedman, was very grateful that Leite gave her presentation.