Divina enters into the life, rituals and magnetic beauty of legendary travesti Marcinha do Corintho
Since childhood, Brazilian artist Ode has been “obsessed” with the iconic performer. Here, she talks us through finally lensing Marcinha do Corintho for Divina – a film seeped in reverence.
“It was a Sunday night”, Ode remembers. The artist was 10 or 11 years old, watching Programa Silvio Santos (a variety show airing since 1963 in Brazil) while packing her bag for school. It was then she saw Marcinha do Corintho for the first time, in one of her most famous lip-sync performances to date. “She was the only travesti among many drag queens and, aesthetically, her performance was the most impeccable thing I had ever seen on TV,” says Ode.
Marcinha do Corintho was one of the most legendary travestis to grace the screen in the mid-80s and 90s; a travesti, Ode explains, is a gender identity that exists within Brazilian and Latin American culture, “and cannot be translated”. Growing to fame for her shows at nightclubs, theatres and casinos, Marcinha was an icon of trans beauty at Brazilian carnival. Ode, currently based in São Paulo, also identifies as travesti, and her journey to this realisation is filled with childhood memories of Marcinha. “I spent days watching all the videos I found of Marcinha on YouTube,” she tells us. “I became obsessed with her.”
In the present day, this obsession has manifested into the impossible; Ode’s latest short film, Divina, lenses the icon in her home, dressed in heavenly outfits, as she reveals stories of her life. Though Divina is a celebration of Marcinha’s triumphs, it is imbued with a hushed reverence that it seems only Ode would be able to truly capture, evoking an aura, perhaps even a divinity, that softly commands. For Ode, both of these approaches – to capture Marcinha in victory, and as a sacred figure – comes from an urge to negate prevailing narratives. “Of travestis and trans women in the news being beaten up, killed, and demonised,” Ode comments.
Even on the very TV channel that led Ode to Marcinha as a child (SBT), the director states that sensationalist articles contributed to the persecution of the travesti community during the military regime. In 1987 in São Paulo, under the guise of “fighting aids”, police brutally attacked and arrested trans people and travestis, in an official operation titled Operação Tarântula. Sílvio Santos – the variety programme that originally featured Marcinha – was one of the first programs to broadcast LGBTQIA+ people on TV without being pejorative in Brazil.
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Ode: Divina (Copyright © Ode, 2022)
In Divina, Ode uses iconography: “To show that travestis can be alive, grow old, leave a legacy, be victorious, and be seen as sacred.” In particular, Ode adorns Marcinha in images of saints often found in her hometown. The inclusion of religious signs is a recurring theme for Ode, who often explores Brazilian iconographies that “challenge Western perceptions, which generally ignore the Global South as part of Latin American life,” she says.
Personal shots of Marcinha’s home in the film only serve to deepen this divinity. Ode recounts that the documentation process “was simple”; “just two days”, one in the garden of a production company “and another afterwards at Marcinha’s home”. She describes the way her house looked like a museum of Marcinha:
“Marcinha’s history is in every detail of the house: in the innumerable pictures of Marcinha herself, photographs, newspaper and magazine articles, banners, trophies and more trophies, sketches of her costumes, dolls of herself, some even wearing the mini version of her most iconic looks.”
Ode is also present in the film – permeating through in moments that show her connection to the icon. In the opening scene, as the camera enters Marcinha’s living room, we see a Marcinha performance playing on the TV through beaded curtains. The video is one of the performances that Ode replayed over and over on YouTube while remembering the star.
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Ode: A Rose And A Prayer (Copyright © Ode, 2022)
While Divina is an undoubtedly intimate project for Ode, many of the artist’s projects are similarly personal. Like A Rose and A Prayer, a new photobook commissioned by ColorsxStudio. Shot in the Cidade Martins neighbourhood and the Favela do Coqueiro in the city of Guarulhos, the series feature Ode’s friends and fellow creatives; they feel as glorious as they do real. “Through these images,” Ode surmises, “I accessed memories of the city where I was born, Itajubá, Brazil, exploring rituals, religious manifestations and healed traumas of that region.”
Ode’s ability to use photography as an aid for healing, to create new hallowed spaces from pain, is part of what gives Divina its power. Ode says that the film can be summarised by a quote from the book Não vão nos matar agora, by Jota Mombaça: “Letter to those who live and vibrate in spite of Brazil.” The text explores how the persecuted in Brazil become more in the face of violence; in Ode’s words: “where we have been murdered, we have become older than death, more dead than dead.”
“In the context of Brazil – the country that kills the most trans people in the world,” Divina gives Marcinha and other travestis eternal life.
Ode: Divina (Copyright © Ode, 2022)
About the Author
Liz (she/they) joined It’s Nice That as news writer in December 2021. After graduating in Film from The University of Bristol, she worked freelance, writing for independent publications such as Little White Lies, INDIE magazine and design studio Evermade.