2002, Brazil / France, 105 min, DCP, Dir. Karim Aïnouz, In Portuguese with English subtitles, Wild Bunch

Madame Satã

Saturday, February 25

“A hugely enjoyable throwback to earlier queer and art-house cinema work.” —Ernest Hardy, L.A. Weekly

“Actor Ramos brings an extraordinary intensity and focus to this contradictory role, changing emotions and actions on a dime.”
—Kent Turner, Film-Forward.com

This screening will be followed by a conversation with Mr. Jordan Rogers, a PhD Student and UGrow Communications Fellow in the English Department, College of Arts and Sciences, at the University of Miami.

Born to slaves in the arid wastes of Northern Brazil and sold by his mother at the age of 7, he pursued his freedom on the mean streets of Lapa, Rio de Janeiro. Jet-black, six feet tall, 13 stone of proud muscle in a silk shirt and tight pants, a cut-throat razor in his back pocket.

Karin Aïnouz's extraordinary portrait of the triumphs and tragedy of this explosive and paradoxical personality unfolds against the vibrant, sordid background of Lapa: thronging underworld of pimps and whores, of cut-throats, queers and artists, of dark bars and brothels thick with smoke, drenched in sweat and cheap perfume. A world run through with violence and raw desire, where desperate dreams spring from poverty and squalor.

This film screens as part of Dr. Terri Francis' program Echoing Josephine Baker

Click here to read her essay.

Echoing Josephine Baker explores the dancer-actor-singer’s prismatic vocal intelligence and resonance across a pair of extraordinary works of global black cinema: Djibril Diop Mambéty’s Touki Bouki (1973) and Karim Aïnouz’s Madame Satã (2002).  

In Madame Satã, Aïnouz explores the story of Joao Francisco de Santos (Lázero Ramos) in part through his own fascination with the cinematic Josephine Baker. Santos apparently drew his inspiration for his stage name, Madame Satã, from the 1930s film Madam Satan, directed by Cecil B. DeMille. Curiously, Aïnouz offers Baker’s film characters and moving images in his biopic of Santos and through her work the filmic Santos dreams of life elsewhere. For both Aïnouz and his protagonist, the extracts of Baker’s film performances provide the basis for their meticulous study of her gestures, expressions, and genius as research for their own creativity. Isn’t this an ideal way to experience Baker’s film performances? Like this: extracted from their larger narratives and seen through the eyes of adoring fans.

Baker was among the first Black women to star in a feature film, Siren of the Tropics (1927), and she went on to play leading, if ambivalent roles steeped in colonialist clichés, in Zouzou (1934), Princess Tam Tam (1935), and even the post-war film The French Way (1945). Viewed today, the films in which she performs let us see and hear what she was like then, how she moved, how she laughed, and how well she spoke French! Her citations in films like Touki Bouki and Madame Satã suggest how much her work meant to fellow creatives like Mambéty and Aïnouz whose films experiment with narrative structure and explore the complex interior worlds of their avant-garde and beautiful Black characters.

Please note: seating is general admission.

This program is presented in partnership with the Black Creatives Collective and with support from the University of Miami School of Communication.

University of Miami School of Communication and Black Creatives Collective Logos

Curated by Dr. Terri Francis, the Echoing Josephine Baker film program explores the dancer-actor-singer’s prismatic vocal intelligence and resonance across a pair of extraordinary works of global black cinema: Djibril Diop Mambéty’s Touki Bouki (1973) and Karim Aïnouz’s Madame Satã (2002).

About Dr. Terri Francis

Terri Francis is associate professor in the School of Communication at the University of Miami and the author of Josephine Baker’s Cinematic Prism (Indiana University Press, 2021). Francis is a 2022 Andy Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grantee for her forthcoming book Make that Art!: Kevin Jerome Everson’s Body of Work. Her art writing has appeared in exhibition catalogs as well as the publications Mubi Notebook, Another Gaze, Bitch, Seen, Revue Initiales: Joséphine Baker Directed by Women, Lithub, Salon, and Shadow and Act. Her writing about black performance, film, and the conundrums of black representation has been featured in the academic journals Film History, Black Camera, Transition, Feminist Media Histories, ASAP, and Film Quarterly. From 2017–21, Francis directed the Black Film Center & Archive at Indiana University and secured the donation of African filmmaker Paulin Soumanou Vieyra’s written archive in addition to curating several film series, including Race Swap, Black Sun/White Moon and Love! I’m in Love!, and hosting several speakers series.

Francis is a frequent guest speaker and panel moderator, and she delivered the 2021 Rajiv Vaidya Memorial Lecture for the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. With Betsy Stirratt she co-curated and published the catalog for the film installation Rough and Unequal: A Film by Kevin Jerome Everson. As a member of the editorial board of the Journal of Cinema and Media Studies, Francis edited the open-access dossier Film Programming as Social Justice Work in the Wake of Covid-19, featuring essays from programmers, platform founders, and writers about their work during the summer of 2020.

Check out the rest of our Echoing Josephine Baker program!