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I found this poem years after my first hitchhiking trips, during the making of my first feature-film, the documentary- road movie Fabiana. It translates, at the same time, the experience of hitchhiking, the protagonist’s life, and the process of making a road movie.


In 2006, I migrated from Goiânia to São Paulo, when I started with my hitchhiking trips, wanting to also know the roads that took me to my destinations. Each car or truck that stopped for me was a new universe of personal stories, which paired with the landscapes passing by the window during the journey. With these stories, it would be possible to put together some sort of oral and sentimental cartography of the places we went through.

 

Many of those who stopped to offer me a ride were truck drivers, all men. In general, they give rides to be able to talk, to ward off solitude and to make time feel less sluggish. Nevertheless, in one of these times, when I hitched for a ride, in 2012, a woman, driving a big truck, stopped: it was her, Fabiana. We went from São Paulo to Brasília in a two-day haul. Along the way, she told me many of the stories she had lived on the road. With her thick accent from the interior of Goiás, she reminded me of the Goianian storytellers that prose about the simple things of the everyday life.

 

Born in Jataí, a small town in the southwest of Goiás, Fabiana started discovering herself as a woman while she was still a little girl. Because of her father’s narrow-mindedness when it came to accept her as such, in her twenties, she moved to Goiânia, where she worked as a mechanic before becoming a truck driver. Some hours into our trip together she disclosed: “Can I tell you something? I actually like women!”. Then she went to talk about her adventures on the road. It was in the world of trucks - the most unexpected, one would argue - that she asserted her gender and sexuality. Not from a stance of defense and resistance against prejudice but, mostly, of defiance.

I got off in Brasília, with her stories resonating in my mind, and the interest in making a documentary with her started to grow. Early on I understood it wouldn’t be a documentary of interviews performed in isolated encounters. It would be more interesting to make a documentary coming from an immersion in Fabiana’s reality. Like this, I would be able to delve deeper into her universe, letting that precious kind of time, which exists when we travel kilometers on end, allow the manifestation of that which was hidden and, through free association, could pop into memory.

“As you set out for Ithaka
hope the voyage is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
[...]
Keep Ithaka always in your mind.

Arriving there is what you are destined for.
But do not hurry the journey at all.

Better if it lasts for years,
so you are old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.

Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.

Without her you would not have set out.

She has nothing left to give you now.”


“Ithaka”, by Konstantinos Kaváfis*

 

We kept in touch over the phone and, in 2015, we met in a gas station in the outskirts of Goiânia, where she told me she was in the process of requesting her retirement papers. A that time, I knew a crucial moment was coming: her last trips, in which I had to be her companion, through the end of that part of her life, before she left the roads for good.


I started preparing myself for Fabiana’s last great trip, which took 28 days, across 11,000 kilometers. As soon as we took the road, as I had come to expect, she started telling me other stories of her adventures. All in its own time, between a cup of coffee and a cigarette, with her eyes fixed in the horizon, silent, and, suddenly: “Oh, Brunna, I remembered something...” So, a new anecdote would begin. Sometimes, I would say something that, only many kilometers later would tap into her memory - more stories would. Also, I would encourage encounters with other people, or a stop at a specific place,
to find out what other unpredictable and priceless things would ensue.


The result was a documentary where the spectator gets to know Fabiana little by little, as she becomes more and more comfortable and narrates her stories, sometimes directly to me, sometimes talking to friends we find along the way. The elements of her past and present emerge gradually, giving out the pieces of a mosaic that could represent her life. This aspect, opposed to a biography intended to cover every gap in her life, is reinforced because Fabiana never tells her stories in full, always leaving something between the lines. Even when she discloses much to us, she nourishes pauses of silence, in which she ponders present or past matters, which makes her an even more enticing individual.


I believe the position I assumed contributed to build up some kind of confidence between us. A confidence that allowed Fabiana to also point out what she thought it was interesting to film, taking charge in what is represented in her own film. That, summed to the spontaneity with which she shares her stories, paved the way to discover and respect the way she wanted to be portrayed.


However, a little further along the way, a second passenger gets in the truck: Priscila, who came to deconstruct the image Fabiana tried to construe for herself in the first part of the journey, bringing more complexity and humanity to her universe. Feel invited to see the film for yourselves.

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* C.P. Cavafy, Collected Poems. Translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard. Edited by George Savidis. Revised Edition. Princeton University Press, 1992