Aribada Marks an Exciting New Entry for Two-Spirited Cinema

Unique hybrid film debuts on Indigenous People's Day

3 mins read

“When we transition and become women, we don’t mind looking for work in the fields picking coffee. With the money we earn, we sustain our living,” Andrea tells Bella in Aribada. “Daughter, do not leave our culture behind, we can still fight for our own identity…We can’t leave our culture behind even when wearing flip flops. I don’t mind walking barefoot even if white people gossip bad things about us.”

Aribada, which joins MUBI’s Pride Unprejudiced collection on June 21 (an appropriate international work to complement National Indigenous People’s Day), offers a unique and poetic work of Indigenous trans futurism. The short film directed by Simon(e) Jaikiriuma Paetau and Natalia Escoba observes a quartet of transwomen from the Emberá tribes in the heart of Colombia’s coffee region. Aribada takes its title from a mythical monster that rouses from its slumber amid the shaking trees of the forest. Together, the characters, known as Las Traviesas, welcome Aribada to join their community. They know what it’s like to have neighbours frown upon you simply for existing, as the elder cautions Bella that return trips to their village invite gossip and, in some cases, threats of being captured and tied up. The film observes as Las Traviesas cast a spell to conjure a new and inclusive community and forge their place by fire.

Paetau and Escoba deftly blend observational verité with hypnotic cinematic poetry as Aribada witnesses Andrea, Bella, Beroniga, and Emilce lead Las Traviesas towards an ideal community. They shuck corn and work steadily by day, but then give the cobs a glow-up by night. The film features performance pieces in which Las Traviesas engage with the riches of the earth, like silver painted corn kernels or the rich cherries that hold the region’s delectable coffee beans. Fleeting images leave audiences suspended somewhere between a dream and a nightmare as one witnesses the exchange between Las Traviesas and the beast from the woods.

Aribada marks a striking entry into the relatively new canon of trans and two-spirited cinema as it delivers a work that defies easy classification. The film uses performance to blur the line between fantasy and reality as it creates a space for Las Traviesas to call their own. It’s an entrancing fever dream with touches of magical realism and traces of drag, all of which firmly celebrate the culture that Las Traviesas call their own while creating something refreshingly new.


Aribada premieres on MUBI on June 21.

Pat Mullen is the publisher of POV Magazine. He holds a Master’s in Film Studies from Carleton University where his research focused on adaptation and Canadian cinema. Pat has also contributed to outlets including The Canadian Encyclopedia, Paste, That Shelf, Sharp, Xtra, and Complex. He is the vice president of the Toronto Film Critics Association and an international voter for the Golden Globe Awards.

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