Journey is, in every sense of the term, more important than destination in Fabiana, a feature documentary screened at the 2019 International Film Festival Rotterdam directed by Brazilian filmmaker Brunna Laboissiére. Here, Laboissiére hitches a ride with a lesbian transgender woman named Fabiana, a seasoned truck driver approaching retirement who has criss-crossed Brazil for several years, joining her on what will be one of her last ever work trips.
Along the way, Fabiana shares stories, memories and anecdotes from her life on the road, and they occasionally stop to meet some of her friends and people who are important to her, as well as to get into some small but charming adventures. Laboissiére’s style and approach positively reflects the universal serendipity of travel by using long takes and other such techniques popularized and commonly associated with the cinema vérité tradition, which pays attention and favours natural actions and authentic dialogue in search for a truthful depiction of a person’s day to day life.
Where Laboissiére draws a clear distinction between Fabiana and other works of this cinematic movement is by including herself as a subdued yet felt, human presence behind the camera and therefore, inevitably, a character in the film. Much of her documentary, in fact, takes place on the road but within the intimate and restrictive confinement of the truck itself. It is a setting that recalls that of Pablo Giorgelli’s 2011 fiction feature Las Acacias, a somewhat underappreciated lesson in pace and momentum in cinema that revolved around the evolution of the bond between a quiet truck driver and the woman and newborn baby he agrees to drive from Paraguay to Argentina.
While Fabiana is a much more talkative and solar counterpart to the truck driver in Giorgelli’s film, the evolution of the bond between her and her camera-equipped passenger is a central dynamic of the documentary – one interestingly disturbed by the appearance of Fabiana’s eccentric girlfriend, whom they pick up along the way in the second part of the film.
To be sure, there is something visually striking and stigma-defying about seeing an unapologetically transgender woman working as a truck driver, a professional environment traditionally predominantly populated by men. Yet, it is precisely the sensibility and subtleness with which the gender theme is represented that makes her story so inspiring; the message in the end is that Fabiana is unique, not different. In fact, it is the allure and romanticism of Fabiana’s nomadic life that takes center stage, which is appropriate, given that Fabiana is no political activist, nor does she even remotely seem to aspire to be one.
Like most people, she is both a sinner and a saint and even spends much of the documentary talking about the many affairs she has had on the road over the years, as if she had been the inspiration behind Dion’s timeless hit, “The Wanderer.” But it is by way of these more lighthearted and revealing moments that Laboissiére is able to capture her more vulnerable side, particularly in those instances where she nostalgically considers how drastically her life will change after retiring as the etched wrinkles on her face in close up mark the cruel inevitability of a universal truth: the passing of time.