The Other Brazil: DVD REVIEW: Madam Sata

Madame Sata Movie Trailer

The directorial debut of Karim Ainouz’s, Madame Satã, is a pictorial marvel detailing the life of João Francisco dos Santos, a black Brazilian man living in 1930’s racially and socially oppressive Lapa (northern Brazil). João (Lazaro Ramos), along with Laurita, (Marcelia Cartaxo) his best friend and Tabu, (Flavio Bauraqui) his pseudo household maid, construct a colorful yet restrained, irrational yet tender, spellbinding yet dark world through prostitution, drug usage and fantasy. Having the desire to rise above his meager lifestyle, Joao aspires to be a celebrated stage entertainer (drag queen) and loved by the public. Madame Sata illustrates how João “negotiates being in the world,” reacts to its judgment and the harsh realities that hauntingly follows. Ramos and the entire cast of Madame Satã, unforgettably breathe life into the sounds, sadness, beauty, and personal narrative of the human experience. The movie alluringly captures the multifarious textures, shades, and rhythms of Brazil in dramatic lighting and cinematography.

Madame Satã (film)

Image via Wikipedia

Emotional Scene from Madame Sata

Madame Sata is subtitled, it’s a Brazilian film in Portuguese. After the first five minutes it’s like you’re watching an English language film. The movie was nominated for a GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Film – Limited Release and won Cinema Brazil Grand Prize’s top prizes Best Actor (Melhor Ator) and Best Actress (Melhor Atriz).

The name of the movie is taken from Cecil B. DeMille‘s movie Madam Satan about a woman trying to seduce her unknowing and unfaithful husband and teach him a lesson. In the movie João dresses as the character from Madam Satan.

Lazaro Ramos also stars in one of my other favorite movies, Carandiru, about Brazil’s largest prison in São Paulo. I only own two DVD’s Madame Sata and Carandiru.

Carandiru Movie Trailer

João’s biography from Wikipedia:

João Francisco dos Santos (1900 – 1976), also known as the infamous drag performer and capoeirista Madame Satã (Madam Satan), was born into a family of ex-slaves in the state of Pernambuco, Brazil. Having been accused with conspiracy of murder, spending 27 years in prison, being a former gangster and father of 7, he found refuge in the dark Bohemian culture of Rio de Janeiro amidst a lively world of pimps, prostitutes, deviants and samba composers.

João is most commemorated as a figure who fought to redefine himself while battling the stigmas of being a son of former black slaves, illiterate and homosexual. João is quoted for once saying “I was born an outlaw, that’s how I’ll live.” In between his drag performances, his days as a hustler and his convictions of murder, his image as the legendary cabaret performance artist Madame Satã meaning Madam Satan having been influenced by the 1930’s film by Cecil B. DeMille about a woman disguising herself as a notorious temptress to win back her errant husband. João’s infamous character represented an expression of resistance in this post abolitionist era in Brazil where black people, prostitutes, drug users and addicts and other ‘deviant’ outcasts were deemed useless to society.

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1 Comment

Filed under Art, The Creative Spark

One response to “The Other Brazil: DVD REVIEW: Madam Sata

  1. Pingback: Sunday with Madam Satan | Karavansara

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