Madame Sata

Madame Satã embodies the genre conventions and politics of Third Cinema and New Queer Cinema through characterizing the repression Joao is faced with. Third Cinema can be seen as political cinema with a sense of opposition. There are various instances where queer sexuality is linked to colonialism because of the dismissal and rejection. Joao’s portrayal to the officials and people outside of Lapa in Madame Satã represents the obstacles faced because of his two representations, as a criminalized black male and an eroticized mulatta figure.

According to Leung, Third Cinema can be considered “both an aesthetic and a production method that would reflect the economic situation and the political aspirations of the Third World peoples.” (Lueng, 156) There are numerous scenes throughout the film in which Joao’s economic situation is evident. When Joao, Tabu and Laurita are waiting on line to enter the High Line nightclub, they get rejected and violence ensues. They bodyguards at the club implies that they do not belong and they are explicitly called “prostitutes” and “bums.” Although they had the money to enter the nightclub, they did not look like the rest of the crowd therefore they were denied from entry. They are seen as “other” bodies that do not belong, physically and economically. Even Laurita is aware of this when Joao questions why they were not let in the nightclub. She responds with “Because you are not like everyone else.” Their segregation is evident to the point that the people being excluded believe that they should be excluded because they are not like the rest of them.

One of the most engaging techniques of the film is how we are invited to look critically at the scenes presented to us. Depending on the placement of the camera or the view that we are getting, we are automatically a certain type of spectator getting specific impressions on the people we are watching. Third Cinema has “developed cinematic forms and production methods that mobilize the audience’s critical awareness of the material circumstances of their own spectatorship.” (Lueng, 158) In the opening scene of the film, we see that Joao is being convicted of several crimes. We do not necessarily have to agree with most of the crimes being listed, such as the fact that he has no education and he imitates women, but the view we are getting of him is similar to a mug shot, which implies guilt.  His body is rendered as a criminal since we are looking through the policeman’s eyes. We witness a “racialized gaze to which Joao is subjected and the defiant ‘oppositional gaze’ he directs back as he generates his own representations.” (Leu, 81) These two opposing gazes are evident throughout the entire film as we see Joao being repressed and when he reacts to the repression with violence and misconduct in order to get justice. An example of this appears when Joao is trying on Vitoria’s clothes and performing as Scheherazade in her dressing room. When she witnesses his performance, he is immediately told to take the clothes off and gets racially abused. Additionally she insults his economic and physical characteristics. In reaction to her results, he trashes her dressing room and pulls a knife on her to threaten. He gains power by having the upper hand in this situation but is soon in prison as a consequence.

A large majority of Brazil’s politics is included in the film. The acceptance of miscegenation is witnessed in various scenes. This is present in the scene where Tabu sets Joao up with a client who is a “a white but male partner” that “challenges the expectations of interracial relations with regard to the national project of miscegenation.” (Leu, 87) Although this was highly frowned upon in many other countries, Brazil encouraged it to make it seem as if racism does not exist. In reality, it is the same goal that enables of apparatus of white supremacy. Joao’s relationship with Renatinho can be perceived in the same manner and several scenes in the film highlight their difference in skin tones. This is also an example of how the camera influences our perceptions on relationships and race.

Strawberry and Chocolate engages with similar genre conventions and politics of Third Cinema. The film takes place during Fidel Castro’s regime, which involved a negative attitude towards the LGBT community. In addition there was censorship in every sense, which was a conflict for the main character given the fact that he was an artist. The repression that many characters in Madame Satã feel is also seen in Strawberry and Chocolate even though they are in very different countries with different forms of governments. The attached image shows the tension between the characters in terms of frustration but sexually as well. This can be interpreted closely with Joao’s relationship to Renatinho and their conflicts.


Work Cited

Leu, Lorraine Performing Race and Gender in Brazil: Karim Ainouz’s Madame Sata Ohio State University/Office of Minority Affairs/The Kirwan Institute, 2010, 73-95

Leung, Helen Hok-Sze New Queer Cinema and Third Cinema New Queer Cinema, 2004


One thought on “Madame Sata

  1. channabach

    You do a great job of using close readings of specific scenes to support your claims about the film’s relationship to Third Cinema and New Queer Cinema. This makes your claims quite strong and convincing. Your reading of the racialized and gendered gaze is really interesting, and I particularly like how you tie the film’s manipulation of this to Leung’s point about Third Cinema’s encouragement of critical (rather than passive) viewing.

    Several of the quotations you use from Leung mention Third Cinema’s emphasis on new production practices (ones that critique the hierarchies of Hollywood and Second Cinema), and I’m curious how you see this at work in the film. How are the labor practices, decision making processes, equipment, fundraising, and/or casting reflective (or not) of Third Cinema politics?

    The connection you draw to Strawberries and Chocolate is compelling, but needs more elaboration and contextualiation. When was this film set, and what specifically was going on politically, economically, and culturally in Cuba then (this is central to what the film is arguing)? How exactly were gender and sexuality constructed during that time period in Cuban Revolutionary discourse, and why? Remember, Third Cinema is all about foregrounding the political and economic context and implications of cultural productions, so any claims that Strawberries and Chocolate is an example of Third Cinema would need to discuss that (think about how Leu and Leung are careful to historically locate the films they analyze in particular decades and geopolitical contexts, not just “Brazil in general” or “Hawaii in general” or “China in general”).

    The Leu article and Leung chapter are formatted incorrectly in your Works Cited list. Check the MLA citation guide link on the Policies and Writing pages for instruction on how to cite journal articles and chapters in edited collections.

    Overall, well done on this post.

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