A profoundly intimate look at Luana Muniz (59) and her safe hostel for generations of trans sex workers in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil during the 2016 Olympics. A proud prostitute since the age of 9, Muniz hopes to create a lasting foundation for the future as the filmmakers gently explore the day-to-day entanglements of love, rivalry and mentorship as one legacy passes down to the next.
I grew up in the neighborhood of Gloria, which is adjacent to Lapa, in Rio de Janeiro. “Queen of Lapa” is my directorial debut and the project is very personal to me. I have heard about Luana Muniz and her safe home for transsexual-sex workers living and working in Lapa ever since I was a child. My father was a neighborhood negotiator at one point in the early 1990's between the sex-workers and our neighborhood leaders.
The sex workers, work on a street that joins Gloria and Lapa and the residents of Gloria were growing concerned about the activity. Needless to say, my father made all parties happy in the end and this lead to a greater cooperation and understanding between the neighborhood and the sex workers. My grandmother is a famous civil rights leader and revolutionary in Brazil and I feel this project is my way of continuing her, and my father's legacy of human rights.
On a trip back to Rio in 2010 with my husband and collaborator Theodore Collatos to visit family, we were talking with mutual friend of Luana's and encouraged us to meet with her about the possibility of a project together. After doing a great amount of research, we were amazed at the extent Luana’s influence on the entire city in terms of civil rights.She once took on legislators in a public assembly and single handedly changed the cities primitive policies. Luana was gracious enough to allow a personal meeting, which she rarely does, at her apartment. We chatted for hours into the night about life. What struck us most was learning about her hostel that housed up to thirty-six sex workers and her intention to make it an institution for generations of transsexuals to have a place to grow.
Theodore and I returned home inspired and hoped to one day return to tell this beautiful story. Six years went by and we returned during the Summer Olympic Games in 2016 with Luana's blessing to begin the film. We were able to attain this exclusive never before granted access only because of her trust in us as honest people and our vision of simply living in the space without any preconceived agenda or message, but rather to tell her story and the story of the hostel.
We believe the result is a powerful statement of humanity, love and grace.