Entertainment » Movies

Queen Of Lapa

by Roger Walker-Dack
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Tuesday Oct 22, 2019
'Queen Of Lapa'
'Queen Of Lapa'  

The Brazilian transgender activist Luana Muniz was considered such a fascinating character that her life has been the subject of no less than three documentaries.  This latest, by Theodore Collatos and Carolina Monnerat, was completed just before Muniz died of a heart attack in 2017, aged 59.

She was larger than life figure who transitioned at an early age ("I've had my breasts operated on 14 times," she proudly boasted), and she went on to become a surrogate mother figure sheltering  transexuals, prostitutes, and HIV-positive people in her big house in Rio de Janeiro's downtown nightlife area known as Lapa.

This fascinating piece of cinema verite captures the daily routine in Mama Muniz's hostel as her "girls" get ready for a night on the streets looking for clients to bring home. Despite the unspoken rivalry, there is a cozy camaraderie between them all as they share stories of the reality of leaving their villages in the country and eventually finding their true identity. Many of them dream of falling in love and having families of their own, even though it seems such an unlikely scenario from where we are sitting

Mama rules over it all with a gentle rod, always generously dispensing advice and passing on bon-mots from her own experiences.  She is not their pimp or Madame but simply their landlord, who allows them to bring 'johns' home. She claims there is nothing exotic about her life, despite her appearance, except when she is on stage in a club, scantily dressed and seductively lip-synching .

Despite all the bravado captured on camera, Muniz is the first to admit how very tough it was to get this far with her life, and the safe space she had created for her coterie of young girls. But even her detractors grudgingly acknowledge the social work she does and that, being one of the creators of a project that offered education for the trans community of that city, she should be applauded.

The documentary resists seeing her life through rose-colored glasses but also spends very little time on the personal dangers that her girls can face. As for the ebullient and charming Muniz, she just screams at people, "Do you think you can mess with transvestites?" No, you would not want to do anything to face her wrath.

Roger Walker-Dack, a passionate cinephile, is a freelance writer, critic and broadcaster and the author/editor of three blogs. He divides his time between Miami Beach and Provincetown.


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