Princesa

Inspired by the memoirs of Brazilian transsexual Fernanda Farias de Albuquerque, this raw and raunchy drama from director Henrique Goldman offers what few feature films have ever bothered to attempt: a realistic, wholly sympathetic look at the lives of transgendered prostitutes. Like a number of Brazilian transsexuals before her, 19-year-old Fernanda (played...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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Inspired by the memoirs of Brazilian transsexual Fernanda Farias de Albuquerque, this raw and raunchy drama from director Henrique Goldman offers what few feature films have ever bothered to attempt: a realistic, wholly sympathetic look at the lives of transgendered prostitutes. Like a number of Brazilian transsexuals before her, 19-year-old Fernanda (played by real-life transsexual Ingrid de Souza) has left Sao Paolo for the red light district of Milan, notorious as the world's largest open-air market for transgendered prostitutes. She moves in with homegirl Charlo (Johnny Guimares), a flamboyant transvestite who tells Fernanda that Italian clients prefer a man in a wig to anything more anatomically complicated, but Fernanda is unfazed. She only plans to work until she can save enough money for the operation that will transform her into a "normal" woman; she'll then find herself a Prince Charming and settle down to a life of domestic bliss. Charlo rolls her eyes but nevertheless introduces Fernanda to Karin (Lulu Pecorari), a street madam who knows a hot property when she sees one. She takes Fernanda — or "Princesa," as she's known on the streets — into her stable and under her wing, offering a place to stay and keeping 15 percent of Fernanda's income for herself. All goes according to plan: The money is soon rolling in, and one rainy night, her prince, a good-looking professional man named Gianni (Cesare Bocci), pulls up in an expensive car. After a few dates and a romantic weekend away, Gianni professes his love, tells Fernanda that he couldn't live without her, and even promises to do something about that wife of his. But Fernanda has her doubts. She's afraid that Charlo is right about Gianni, that he's really gay and once Fernanda becomes a woman, he'll lose interest entirely. In a bold — and entirely successful — attempt at authenticity, Goldman cast real transgendered men for all the supporting roles and much of it is shot on location using available light and grainy, 16mm stock. But despite the trappings of realism (both Goldman and his cinematographer Guillermo Escalon have backgrounds in documentary filmmaking), the film is entirely fictitious; rather than filming Farias's memoir, Goldman uses her persona as a character in what amounts to an honest, heartfelt melodrama. The film tries hard to end on a upbeat note, but an air of despair lingers. Sadly, Farias, the real-life Princesa, committed suicide shortly before filming was completed. (In Italian and Portuguese, with English subtitles.)

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  • Released: 2000
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: Inspired by the memoirs of Brazilian transsexual Fernanda Farias de Albuquerque, this raw and raunchy drama from director Henrique Goldman offers what few feature films have ever bothered to attempt: a realistic, wholly sympathetic look at the lives of tra… (more)

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