June 04, 2003

For João

Poor, black, homosexual and illiterate, João Francisco dos Santos became a legend of Brazil’s Carnival and of bohemian Rio de Janeiro after serving 10 years in prison for killing a man who attacked him because of his sexual preference.

I really should have prepared to attend the NYC Gay and Lesbian Film Festival this year. This looks like a real gem:

Besides having stage talent, Santos was handy with a knife and skilled at capoeira, a form of martial arts developed by African slaves in Brazil, which, with its spinning kicks and head and body blows, has turned into a competitive combination of sport and dance.

Karim Ainouz, a Brazilian filmmaker of Arab descent, chose dos Santos, who died in 1976, as the subject of his first feature-length work, Madame Satan. Ainouz says the film goes beyond dos Santos’ life, however, to portray the problem of social exclusion and show how passion for life can overcome the limitations imposed by others.

The film takes place in 1932, the year dos Santos defined his identity as "Madame Satan" — a transvestite who created award-winning costumes for carnivals and shows — in his bid to become a performer.

Although he gained fame as a bohemian, dos Santos also had a relatively tranquil family life with a prostitute and her daughter. He established himself as an artist, directing a colorful cabaret show, but his career came to an abrupt halt when he was sentenced to 10 years in prison for shooting dead a white man who insulted him. After he was released from prison, dos Santos became a well-known figure in Rio de Janeiro’s Carnival.

Posted by ronn at June 4, 2003 03:12 PM

*GASP!!!!!!!!* Posted by: Donald on June 4, 2003 11:19 PM
Are you gonna try to go see this? Do you know if tix are still available? Posted by: Bernie on June 5, 2003 09:46 AM
Oh yes, but here is the screening that I'm trying for ... Posted by: Donald on June 5, 2003 12:31 PM
I won't make the NewFest viewing, but now that I know about the HRW screening (thanks D!), I'm will see about getting tickets right away. Posted by: ronn on June 5, 2003 12:38 PM