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TC Doc Series: DZI Croquettes

Directors Raphael Alvarez and Tatiana Issa talk about the impetus behind Dzi Croquettes, their doc about a Brazilian dance troupe that revolutionized the gay movement. See it Monday, July 26!

TC Doc Series: Dzi Croquettes
DZI Croquettes
(2009, dir. Raphael Alvarez, Tatiana Issa)

Dzi Croquettes is a revealing documentary about a Brazilian dance and theater group resembling an all-male, 1970s version of the Ziegfeld Follies. Banned by the ruling military dictatorship, they used their empowering sexuality to revolutionize the gay movement worldwide.


DZI Croquettes will have its NYC premiere at the Tribeca Cinemas Doc Series on July 26.



We asked New Yorkers Alvarez and Issa to answer a few questions about their fascinating film.


TC Doc Series: Dzi Croquettes


Tribeca: Please describe the story you tell in Dzi Croquettes.


Raphael Alvarez & Tatiana Issa: The Dzi Croquettes were a groundbreaking dance and theatre group who used their talent and a mix of humor and derision to challenge the violent dictatorship that gripped Brazil in the 1970s. Creating a new stage language in theatre and dance, which would influence an entire generation, this theatre group also revolutionized the gay movement, despite being banned and censored by the military regime. Through interviews and archival footage of the group’s incredible performances, we were able to reveal the origin of the group, their relentless perfectionism, and their unexpected stroke of luck when Liza Minnelli becomes a godmother, of sorts, to them. However, we also try to give an honest account of the sadness of their final years when tension, egos, AIDS, and even murder ripped them apart. Through it all, we see how this group never flinched from challenging conventional notions of acceptable “masculine” or “feminine” behavior.
Tribeca: What inspired you to tell that story?


Tatiana Issa: I lived with them in Paris when I was a child, because my father (Americo Issa) was part of the technical staff of Dzi Croquettes. For a long time, I would mention the group to our friends and no one knew who they were. That was the main reason we decided to produce and direct this documentary: to bring back a story that had been forgotten or unknown by the Brazilian and world audiences for far too long.
Tribeca: Why do you think New York audiences will connect with your film?


Tatiana Issa: First of all, one of their main members and the choreographer of the group was Lennie Dale, a Brooklyn-born dancer who had performed in many Broadway musicals, but who, as choreographer Ron Lewis explains, “was too good to be in a chorus of a Broadway show”.


Raphael Alvarez: I have lived in New York for over 18 years and have yet to see anywhere in the world a group like Dzi Croquettes. They were so ahead of their time, as Liza Minnelli mentions in the film. She tried to bring them to Broadway right before the group broke up. So for us it is a pleasure to make sure Dzi Croquettes finally makes it to NYC almost 40 years later.


TC Doc Series: Dzi Croquettes


Tribeca: What do you want people to take away from the film?


Tatiana Issa: I hope people become inspired by them, as we were when doing the film. Their courage and determination was unprecedented. They fought against the dictatorship with humor and sarcasm—weapons never used before to fight such a brutal regime. And they succeeded by leaving a legacy of actors, musicians and singers worldwide who openly give credit to them for what they did for our country, our culture and our people. If anything, I hope people realize how important what they did in 1972 was.


“You should be whoever you want to be and be able to love whoever you want to love.” We are in 2010 and people are still fighting against that. As they say, “We are not men, nor women, we are people.”
Tribeca: Making documentaries is not an easy road. What was the biggest challenge in getting your film made? How did you overcome it?


Raphael Alvarez: Our first major challenge was getting funds to do the film. We went to a bunch of different companies and the answer was always the same: “NO!!” We knew it would be a difficult project, especially when dealing with such strong subjects; for example, the violent Brazilian dictatorship in the 70s, the first gay movement in Brazil, and the beginning of the AIDS crisis in our country. But we knew that the time was now, and the recognition they deserved was overdue.


With that in mind, we decided to use all of our money and do it ourselves. We were able to count on some friends who helped us with the emotional support and manpower needed to shoot the film.
Tribeca: What was the biggest stroke-of-luck, lightning strikes moment that happened while making the film?


Tatiana Issa: Once we finished editing, we did not have the funds to do the postproduction necessary for the film. We sent a DVD to Paulo Mendonça, director of Canal Brasil (a Brazilian network), who without even knowing us, decided to bet on the project and believed, as we did, that their story needed to be told. They became our co-producers and helped us with the all-necessary means to finalize the film.
TC Doc Series: Dzi Croquettes


Tribeca: What's up next for you as directors?


Raphael Alvarez: We are now finishing a documentary, Parintins, about an island in the middle of the Amazon that hosts the biggest folklore festival in Brazil, all made for and by the natives of the island. Parintins is another rare hidden jewel from our country Brazil that we would like to bring it to light!
Tribeca: What do you currently find most inspiring in today's film world?


Tatiana Issa: Not sure it’s the most inspiring, but exciting to us is the fact that we do not need to just dream anymore—with a home computer, you can start believing in your dreams and making your own films (as we did) with the hopes that it will inspire people in the end. I guess technology!! Now anyone can play at being a filmmaker... All you need is heart!
Tribeca: What else should audiences know about Dzi Croquettes?
Raphael Alvarez: One really interesting thing about the film is the fact that there was no pre-production or pre-script, because we could not find anything on them on the web and/or in the National Brazilian Archives. So the structure of the film was developed while shooting it. Most characters became evident out of the interviews with the original cast members, and we found those characters while we were in the middle of production.


The other really interesting thing is that there was no archive footage of Dzi Croquettes in Brazil: the military regime had literally erased any and all footage of them. But we were able to find a performance recorded in Paris in 1973 by a German television company. It was intense detective work!


Visit the official website.
Like Dzi Croquettes on Facebook.


 Follow @dzicroquettes on Twitter.


Monday, July 26, 2010
7:30 pm

Directors Raphael Alvarez and Tatiana Issa will be in attendance for a post-screening Q&A.

 The Tribeca Cinemas bar will be open before and after the screening—stop in for a drink and mingle with other movie lovers.


Watch the trailer:


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