Queen of Lapa is a documentary about the struggles, abuse & strength of trans sex workers in Rio de Janeiro. Yet, it is unique in that it tries to punctuate no message, no story and is not the usual tale of a courageous leader fighting for the right of acceptance that we might expect to see.
Queen of Lapa opens by introducing us to Luana Muniz, our Queen of Lapa as she poses, cigarette in hand, for a photoshoot in a hallway of the hostel she opened to protect and house trans sex workers. She is above life, above the world; an outrageous and powerful person who knows that she is unique and special. Luana Muniz is arguably one of the most colourful, complex and interesting people to live on this Earth.
She is both eloquent, opening a fan to cool herself because she believes it to appear sophisticated, whilst not being afraid to shoot or beat those who attempt to rob or not pay those who live under her care. Queen of Lapa has given us a unique and unequalled fly on the wall perspective of the Queen of Lapa life in this unique refuge.
Throughout Queen of Lapa we are introduced to the residents of ‘Hotel Muniz’. Gabi, who is given more screentime than most tells us she recalls tales of abuse, robbery and rape with a smile on her face as if this is just the life of a sex worker in Rio; exacerbated further for those who are trans. Directors Theodore Collatos & Carolina Monnerat allow the cast to speak for themselves, and give full free freedom the topics.
We learn about their lives through arguments on the TV, rental payments and their preparations for securing a ‘mark’. We learn that some choose this life, some are forced, but most have been there from far too young an age. Muniz herself claiming sex work as a profession since the age of 11. We see the pain of surgery as Muniz discusses her problems with implants.
What makes Queen of Lapa beautiful is that pain, or joy isn’t always discussed but it’s there on the faces, and in there in their actions. This is real life, not a discussion piece. This community strives to live, and survive, they don’t have the luxury of a cause. Queen of Lapa is a triumph in documentary film making, with unfettered access it’s as if your there in the room yourself, or its as if the crew never showed up.
There are points where little appears to be happening, but nonetheless you need to admire the stylism and honesty that Monnerat and Collatos have created.
Released digitally just in time for Pride, this is a brilliantly put together documentary and a real insight into a hidden trade, and well worth viewing.
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