Award-winning director Madiano Marcheti presents Madalena

Written by
Daniel Persia
Oct. 1, 2022

On Friday, September 23, the Brazil LAB welcomed director Madiano Marcheti for a screening of his acclaimed film Madalena. Translator and Princeton alumna Flora Thomson-DeVeaux (’13) joined from Rio for a post-screening discussion on the transformation of screenplay into sound and image.  

Marcheti’s film follows three protagonists—club hostess Luziane, wealthy agro-inheritor Cristiano, and trans woman Bianca—as they process the death of (yet) another trans woman in Brazil, Madalena. Although Madalena never appears onscreen, her loss is felt, as are its implications for the various residents of a Mato Grosso overrun by soy plantations and surveilled by a newly mechanized wave of drones. The film—stunningly shot and delightfully ambiguous—is as deeply invested in place and nature as it is in its human inhabitants. The viewer has no singular path to follow, a reflection of Marcheti’s own filmmaking process. Marcheti traveled to Dourados, in Brazil’s Central-West region, and encouraged his production crew to take in the sights and sounds as they are, rather than as the script had imagined them. The result is a vivid portrait of a land as it is—and as it is disrupted.

Thomson-DeVeaux opened the discussion by prompting Marcheti to reflect on the experience of translating Madalena to the screen—what was transformed, how it was transformed, and what was gained in the process. There are, she pointed out, various unseen iterations of the film before us today. The conversation continued in the realm of poetry, with a reading of Eucanaã Ferraz’s “Coração do Brasil” and a provocation to consider Marcheti’s film as a kind of sestina, with a series of repeating, interlocking images building on one another as the story progresses. The film “revealed itself in the making,” said Marcheti, addressing how he arrived at a film about both place and the trans community in Brazil.  

A lively discussion followed. Questions from the audience addressed technical elements, such as dialogue and point-of-view, as well as critical constructions of the techno-Baroque, the lyrical, and eco-feminist queer resonances.

For those interested in watching Madalena, the film is currently streaming on Netflix in Brazil.

The event was co-organized by the SPO Film Club Boquitas Pintadas and co-sponsored by the Program in Latin American Studies, the Program in Gender and Sexuality Studies, the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, and the Department of Anthropology.