The Divas featured in this rather heartwarming documentary are now in their 70’s, and this is the story of them uniting to get back on the stage together for one last time to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the show that gave them their first taste of fame. They are a bunch of extremely brave transgender or transvestite performers in Brazil who had not only to deal with hostile parts of society back then, but also with rigorous censorship when the country was run under a dictatorship.
The idea to reunite them came from the successful Brazilian actress Leandra Leal whose grandfather, and then mother, owned Rio de Janeiro’s Rival theater, which was one the first clubs to openly feature men dressed as women. This film, her directing debut, is therefore a very affectionate tribute to all these star performers who were a major part of her childhood when she was hanging around the theater waiting for her mother to finish work.
Leal mixes her footage of the women preparing for this swansong looking ever part of their age in rehearsals, yet who instantly look more like their former selves the moment they are on stage and under the spotlight. She weaves this with archival images and footage of the women setting out abroad at the beginnings of their career……Paris and New York …..to look for more fame and fortune, yet all without exception returning home in the end. They achieved a great deal of success in their travels, but in its days Rio was considered the nightclub capital of the world, and as such these showgirls, were its stars.
The women’s stories are peppered with spicy tales of their youth, and to some of them the fact that they are now completely accepted without fuss anymore, seems even a tad boring. Each one of them has landed up in a happy place now, and even though the most successful one who made millions when she started all-male nude reviews, has no idea what she spent the money on, there isn’t the merest glimpse of regret.
The editing lacked clarity at times making it tough to focus on which particular story we were following, but asides from that, this charming documentary that shows a essential slice of Brazilian gay history is a wee gem.