“DZI CROQUETTES”— Change Through Theater

“Dzi Croquettes”

Change through Theater

Amos Lassen

 I had absolutely no idea what to expect from this film and the only kind of croquettes I had ever heard of are the kind we ate in the South when I was growing up. The Croquettes here are a Brazilian theater troupe that made life a bit more bearable during the dictatorship days of the 1970’s and as they did that they also brought a new look to gay Brazilian society and affected the international gay movement as well as theater and dance.

To say that the Dzi Croquettes were talented is a grievous understatement; they became part of Brazilian pop culture and their history embodies the years of dictatorship and the beginnings of the AIDS epidemic anyone who was fortunate enough to see them has stated that doing so was an unforgettable experience and their fans included Mick Jagger, Liza Minelli, Jeanne Moreau, Omar Sharif, Josephine Baker and Maurice Bejard to name just a few.

They inspired Brazilian youth to resist the 1968 military censorship’s ban on freedom of speech during Brazil’s dictatorship which was quite violent. Combining American Lennie Dale’s innovative dance with political satire and the birth of Brazilian Bossa Nova music, the group took Brazil and Europe by storm with “their unique talent, hypnotic sensuality, humor, and explosive performances”. Liza Minelli became their godmother and because of her they went to Europe and around the world. This documentary was recently banned in China while in Brazil the current President Dilma Rousseff just announced, inspired by the documentary, the Dzi Croquettes group as recipient of “The Cultural Order of Merit Award.”

Dzi Croquettes was the brainchild of an American, Lennie Dale and Wagner Ribeiro, a Brazilian and they formed a 13 man troupe that influenced a generation. Interestingly enough, the group faded into obscurity until lost footage was found and to this, testimonies were added to give us a complete look at the group. In the 90’s, they were spoken of as legendary but the younger Brazilians had no idea who they were and now we can all see for ourselves.

This film entertains and motivates as well as teaches how society is shaped by the individuals who make it up. We see the birth of performing arts movement that we did not know about but that paved the way for freedom of expression.

The best way to describe the group is to say it looks like an updated, upscale all male Ziegfeld Follies. With the coup that ushered in a harsh military dictatorship censorship greatly increased and political activity was controlled by the state but somehow the Dzi Croquettes managed to perform and revolutionize the cabaret scene of Brazil as well as teaching people how to resist.

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