How Elliot Page’s new project An Avocado Pit made Oscars history

Elliot Page (right) and a still of Gaya De Medeiros in Ary Zara's film, An Avocado Pit.

An Avocado Pit, a new film produced by The Umbrella Academy star Elliot Page, has made Oscar history as its creator Ary Zara becomes the first trans director to be shortlisted in the Live Action Short category.

The 20-minute short film stars trans actress Gaya De Medeiros as Larissa, who meets an intrigued, cisgender man named Cláudio (Ivo Canelas) on the streets of Lisbon.

When Larissa enters Cláudio’s car, he’s irked and demands she leaves, setting the scene for what appears to be another film about the violence facing trans sex workers.

What transpires, though, is a story about two people from vastly different worlds coming together for a liberating evening where they get to know, and understand, each other’s perspectives on the world.

In December, Elliot Page and his production company Pageboy Productions joined the film as executive producer.

Speaking to PinkNews, director Ary Zara – who completed a degree in cinema in 2009, but didn’t make his short film debut until An Avocado Pit – reflected on the “overwhelming” response to his movie, why he made the storyline he did, and why Page wanted to get involved.

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“It’s something that I thought [could] happen to every other person, but not to myself,” Zara says of having one of just 15 films to make it onto the Oscars’ shortlist in the Live Action Short category.

The motivation behind An Avocado Pit, adds Zara, was to “grab a cliche that has been over exploited mostly by cisgender artists” – i.e, trans women, particularly sex workers, facing violence – and show that there are other ways for such a story to end.

“We LGBTQI+ people know different options [exist] but at the same time… even us, we doubt the reality that can be out there for us because of these narratives that are in our brains,” Zara explained.

“I really feel that it is very hard to believe in something that you have not seen yet. It’s hard for us to believe that things can go well, but definitely, a lot of things go well, and I know a lot of people that are happy, that are able to access love, able to enjoy life – and these narratives are not there.”

An Avocado Pit director Ary Zara.
Ary Zara makes his directorial debut with An Avocado Pit – and it’s been shortlisted for an Oscar. (Supplied)

For Gaya De Medeiros, who makes her acting debut in the film, the most important moment comes right at the end – spoiler alert if you’re planning on watching it.

“When Cláudio leaves the party and Larissa [stays] there, just having fun and smiling – this is the most important part for me,” she said.

An Avocado Pit ends with Larissa and Cláudio parting ways, and Larissa hanging out with her chosen family, dancing blissfully into the night.

“I’m thinking about trans narratives, about love stories, about identity, and no, you don’t need someone to say who you are, [or] if you are loved or not,” De Medeiros added. “You have your friends, you have your people. That’s the most important thing for me.”

Ary Zara's film 'An Avocado Pit', produced by Elliot Page and starring Gaya De Medeiros, has made Oscar history. (Getty/Supplied)
Gaya De Medeiros makes her acting debut in An Avocado Pit. (Jose Fernandes)

Elliot Page came on board after seeing the film, and took the time to contact Zara with a list describing everything about the film he enjoyed.

“A quote that I think [Page] shared, it was like, the film ‘floored’ him when he saw it for the first time,” Zara explained.

“Of course, I was very surprised getting a message from Elliot Page. I needed to check it three or four times to see if it was a valid account, but it was.

“It was a surreal experience to have an actor like Elliot Page commenting on your work this way. [For] a guy that lives in Lisbon, in a tiny house, making an effort to pay rent – it’s almost two realities trying to coexist with one another.”

Both Zara and De Medeiros acknowledged that the history-making Oscar moment is an important step forward for trans representation in Hollywood, but also recognised that there’s further to go.

“I think that if we still need to mention that we are trans, we are not there yet,” Zara said, explaining that as his father is a doctor, he felt it easier to navigate the healthcare system for his transition.

“So, yes, a trans guy is almost being nominated for the Oscars, but I cannot represent being trans,” he stated.

“We have different privileges, even inside the community. But of course, I think this is opening doors, at least for programmers to look at our films differently and maybe also to try to inspire other LGBTQIA+ artists to create different narratives from what we have been exposed to.”

For De Medeiros, An Avocado Pit’s shortlisting is a sign that trans stories in the media are changing. 

“We are passing through a special moment when we can tell our stories, trying to create not just positive narratives, but we can amplify the possibilities,” she shared.

“Being trans, it’s not just about the surgeries… it’s about being non-confirming, holding yourself, holding who you are. I am the owner of my own life. I can do what I want to do. I can love who I am.”

An Avocado Pit is streaming on Vimeo now.

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