"A lyric ode to bodies and cities, an essay on self-invention, a multi-sensory immersion in the sights and sounds of Rio de Janeiro during Carnival: Obscuro Barroco is, gloriously, all those things." – Point of View Magazine
"Through its vibrant images, [Obscuro Barroco] can make a simple fog covered forest or colourful parade float feel like a haunting entity; the film creates a vivid and contemplative tableau of gender, equality, politics and what it means to be oneself." – Cinema Axis
This oneiric exploration of contemporary Rio de Janeiro through the lens of gender and metamorphosis follows the late Luana Muniz, the famous activist and leader in the transgender community, through the dazzling backdrop of Rio Carnival.
The Carnival in Rio de Janeiro is the largest carnival in the world, with over 2 million people in attendance on each of the five days of the festival every year. It is a time of transformation for millions of Brazilians who don masks, makeup and costumes to assume identities completely foreign to their everyday lives, letting the pulsing, thundering samba music transport them to another plane of existence. For those in the transgender community, this celebration of metamorphosis aligns perfectly with their own ideas of identity and gender, as they change their appearance with costumes, makeup and even plastic surgery. Thus Rio, the “city of dreams and nightmares,” becomes both a symbol of and a venue for the quest for reinvention and rebirth through dissimulation.
Obscuro Barroco is a kaleidoscopic journey through this world that is simultaneously obscure and coruscating. It moves through the glittering, jam-packed streets of the carnival to the dark streets behind it, and from the pinnacles of spectacular parties to the quiet calm the early morning after. The film follows a sad Pierrot, seemingly cut off from the joy that surrounds him, and the late Luana Muniz, who guides both physically and with her words as she recites passages from Agua Viva by Clarice Lispector. The duo shows us gigantic parade floats, dominating the streets, and then those same vehicles of joy stored away in a warehouse like hibernating dragons. The after-hours parties with the trans community become joyous celebrations of mercurial identity, with gender as a fluid variable amongst the sequins, breast implants and dayglo. And just as the people change, so do the festivities; the celebration transitions into a political rally against the current President, the notoriously-homophobic Jair Bolsonaro. Throughout, image after striking image captures the beauty of the time and space. With this compelling cinematography, combined with the unique poetry of its characters, Obscuro Barroco opens an evocative window into the milieu of Rio’s transgender community, and upholds transformation as part of the human experience, like the cycle of birth and death.
60 Minutes | Portuguese with English subtitles.