One of the trademarks of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is his penchant for firing broadsides in the so-called culture wars whenever he has a point to make, and Petrobras chief executive Castello Branco seemed to take a leaf out of the same book this week.


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Participating in an online event last week, Castello Branco tried to justify a decision to end two decades of heavy sponsorship of the Brazilian film industry by the state-controlled oil and gas giant.

The straight-talking chief executive said the reduced budget for sponsorship will be targeted at activities such as children’s theatre and needy beneficiaries, rather than what he termed “rich artists” and films of questionable quality, in his opinion.

Venturing into the realm of quality control, Castello Branco risked offering an example of the sort of film that should not get sponsorship, and chose Portuguese language offering "Bixa Travesty" (which translate as "Tranny Fag"), a documentary that portrays the life of a performing transgender singer in Brazil, as his target.

Although not the greatest contribution to documentary-making since Hoop Dreams — a 1994 US work on the dreams of two high school students to become basketball stars — Bixa Travesty did win some plaudits on the minor-league international film festival trail last year.

By winning the best film prize in Brasilia, one of Brazil's biggest festivals, the documentary automatically qualified for distribution funding from Petrobras, but fell victim to the cuts.

With his seemingly off-the-cuff remarks, Castello Branco was, as Brazilians say, “buying his ticket for a fight” with the LGBT community, and there was plenty of online criticism of his stance.