There’s a wonderful moment in the documentary DZI Croquettes in which footage of half-nude androgynous men dancing up a storm onstage—faces slathered in makeup—is superimposed over grim-faced soldiers marching down the street, serving as muscle for the dictatorship then running Brazil. Merged, the images underscore the fact that both the performance and the march happened in the same window of time, and that Brazil’s hardline political repression during the late ‘60s had ironically spawned the dazzling, hugely influential gender-fuck collective Dzi Croquettes. A coincidental sister group to San Francisco’s Cockettes, formed in the same era but having a much shorter lifespan, Dzi Croquettes were created by Brazilian-born actor Wagner Ribeiro and American-born dancer and choreographer Lennie Dale, who really found his artistic voice after leaving the States and settling in Brazil. Blending cabaret, Carnival, funk, and Old Hollywood musicals while both foreshadowing and then cribbing from ‘70s Glam, the troupe conquered Paris after becoming legends at home (thanks to numerous run-ins with censors). They counted as fans everyone from Liza Minnelli (who appears in the film) and Josephine Baker, to Catherine Deneuve and Gilberto Gil. Anecdotes and analysis from people who knew them, worked with them, or actually were Croquettes is illuminating, funny, and deeply moving, but it’s the mind-blowing performance footage (and there’s lots of it) that makes this a must-see film. Co-directed by Raphael Alvarez and Tatiana Issa, DZI Croquettes is framed by Issa’s memories of a childhood spent briefly amongst the collective, whose motto was: “We are not men. We are not women. We put it together and became one thing: people.”
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