A Sao Paolo transsexual performer, celebrity and activist since the 1970s, Claudia Wonder certainly has a colorful enough resume to float Dacio Pinheiro’s feature portrait “My Buddy Claudia.” Entertaining docu, which also serves as an overview of the last decades’ gay rights struggles in Brazil, should continue its fest travels while sparking specialty broadcaster sales.
Born Marco Antonio Abraao, Wonder was conspicuously unconventional from an early age. She pioneered local transgender visibility in girlie mags, TV, theater and film, the latter including the likes of “The Mulatto Woman Who Wanted to Sin” and “Sex of the Abnormals” (excerpted here). But things darkened considerably in the military dictatorship’s waning 1980s “years of lead,” as AIDS, police hostility and anti-gay violence heightened a homophobic climate. Undaunted, Wonder formed her own punk-ish rock band and continued outspoken community advocacy. The most engaging material is frontloaded, with some slack stretches later on; still, the decently crafted docu holds attention. Archival footage is of variable quality.