A proud trans prostitute since the age of eleven, Luana Muniz, now fifty-nine, shaped a new reality in her “hostel” by housing generations of trans sex workers in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil a city that has been a dangerous home for it’s LGBTQ community. Queen of Lapa, filmed during the 2016 Olympics, explores the sex workers day-to-day lives, quests for love, rivalries and Muniz’s mentoring of the next generation.
I grew up in the neighborhood of Gloria, which is adjacent to Lapa, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. “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 led to a greater cooperation and understanding between the neighborhood and the sex workers, who to this day work there. 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 advocacy.
In 2010, my husband and collaborator Theodore Collatos and I went back to Rio to visit family. During the trip we ended up talking with mutual friends of Luana's who 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 of Luana’s influence on the entire city in terms of civil rights. For example, she once took on legislators in a public assembly and single handedly changed the cities primitive policies regarding trans public safety and the rights of sex workers.
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 live safely and have a place to grow.
We returned to the USA 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 filming.
We were able to attain this exclusive, never-before-granted-access, only because of Luana's deep 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 her hostel.
We believe the result is a powerful statement of humanity, love and grace.
Carolina Monnerat (co-director, producer)