‘Queen of Lapa’ is an Essential Look Into the Camaraderie and Struggles of Trans Sex Workers in Brazil

A transgender sex worker, Luana Muniz, stands in the pink-tinted corridor of her hostel. She is incredibly glamorous wearing black lingerie. She is raising her hand holding a cigarette.
Factory 25

Let’s get something out of the way right now, Queen of Lapa is one of the best documentaries I’ve ever seen. To me, the best documentaries are the ones that provide thoughtful, authentic looks into worlds we might never know existed, and Queen of Lapa delivers that in spades.

The documentary follows Luana Muniz, one of Brazil’s most famous Trans women and her Hostel that she runs for Trans sex workers located in the Lape neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro. Providing a safe environment for them, she acts as a matriarch of sorts, overseeing the house and all the activities therein. Queen of Lapa also provides a look into the lives of her housemates, expanding the scope of the documentary in many ways. It’s not afraid to shy away from topics such as abuse, drug use and self-harm. It tackles the aspects of the Trans community that most are afraid to face or even acknowledge, reminding us that there are Trans women who either have to live this lifestyle or even choose to live this lifestyle.

A young transgender woman sits in a pink bedroom nude. She has silver hair and a tattoo across her shoulder.
Factory 25

Many times in LGBT-related media situations are either “perfect” or have storybook endings. Queen of Lapa subverts this expectation/trope, showing us authentic Trans women that are far from what society deems as “perfect”, and poses the idea to the audience that its okay to be imperfect. Muniz has built up an empire and reputation from almost nothing and in turn provides a safe haven for Trans sex workers—a marginalised group that most would turn their backs on in an instant. We learn some of the back stories of the girls and some of the struggles they face in their line of work, alongside some horrifying abuse stories. Queen of Lapa shines in its commitment to never sugarcoat.

Running at a brisk 73 minutes Queen of Lapa wastes no time getting into the message it’s trying to convey. With a mix of solid documentary camera work and cell footage from the girls inside the house, we’re given a window into this world that sometimes we’re afraid to acknowledge even exists. For Pride month, I highly recommend seeking out Queen of Lapa as one of the most authentic looks into the struggles of being a Trans woman, not only because of that but also because it’s a celebration of being and loving yourself, flaws and all.

Queen of Lapa screened as part of New Fest & Sheffield Doc Fest this year. It was scheduled to have a June theatrical release but was cancelled due to COVID-19. Factory 25 made the film available for limited virtual screenings for Pride month on June 19th

by Reyna Cervantes

Reyna (She/They) is located in southern California! They are an aspiring screenwriter with experience in sound design and production work, their 3 favourite films are Evil Dead 2, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and Frances Ha. All of their social handles are @JFCDoomblade (twitter, insta, letterboxd).

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