Documentary Films | 2016 | 110 minutes
Stranger Says: Divinas Divas is the name of a group of Brazilian “transvestites,” as they identify themselves, who’ve been performing cabaret acts since the 1960s. They have had their share of social indignities and artistic triumphs. The filmmaker of this documentary is the granddaughter of the man who runs the troupe, which may explain why the film lacks tension. It dwells lovingly on its subjects, and mostly consists of them performing and talking endlessly about romance, sugar daddies, what beauty is, the thrill of performing, and other topics.
SIFF Says:Long before making a name as an actress throughout Brazil, director Leandra Leal enjoyed the kind of early life most of us could only dream of. As the granddaughter of famed producer and theater owner Américo Leal, the future star made her childhood home backstage and in the dressing rooms of Rio de Janeiro’s Rival Theater, among the first theaters to welcome cross-dressing performers more than 50 years ago. Discovering later that her beloved theater was a cherished safe haven for drag performers in a repressive, intolerant society, Leal was moved to create this loving tribute to the divas who shaped her childhood as they prepare for one final performance. From demure and beguiling Camille K, whose appearances in public caused riots, and the glamorous Valeria, who learned her craft from the most infamous Parisian showgirls and whose show-stopping rendition of “My Way” will make you break out the handkerchief, to outspoken Eloína Dos Leopardos, fully committed to being a woman from an early age, and multitalented Marquesa, born into privilege and living life as a man but for the stage, the Rival’s legendary divas share life stories filled with humor and heartbreak, sadness and strength. Using rich archival clips mixed with backstage footage and rollicking interviews, Divine Divas, the Audience Award winner at both Rio 2016 and this year’s SXSW Film Festival, is a director’s poignant and unforgettable return to the arms of the divas who raised her.
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