Madame Sata

Director: Karim Ainouz
Screenwriters: Karim Ainouz

Institute History

  • 2003 Sundance Film Festival


Lapa, the bohemian district of Rio de Janiero, 1931: While Berlin and Harlem explode with artistic creativity abroad, the mythic drag performer and samba teacher-to-be, João Francisco, is still just a hustler with more than one trick up his sleeve (and in his bed). During his lifetime, however, he will take on many personae: Afro-Brazilian avenger, prince of thieves, "husband" to prostitute Laurita, adoptive father to baby Firmina, and cruel stepmother to Taboo, his queeny understudy. Joao dances, loves, and battles his way through life, a black diamond in Rio's inky sea of samba composers, female impersonators, and denizens of the underworld.

The son of former slaves who finds himself in and out of prison, Joao is capable of more than just survival. He rules every moment, defying his circumstances by basking in the ecstasy of his reclaimed freedoms, which always come with a price. Yet his truest challenge remains honoring the artist within and becoming a star of the stage, though his path to limelight is twisted by the consequences of being a menace to society.

Karim Ainouz's first feature is as seductive as the character it portrays. Amazing performances by Lazaro Ramos, Flavio Baraqui, and Marcelia Cartaxo make Madame Sata an intimate and visceral piece of dark and seductively sweet audiovisual candy.

— Larin Sullivan

Screening Details

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