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"Xica," directed by Carlos Diegues, is based on the story of an actual figure from Brazilian history, Xica da Silva. As depicted in the film, Xica was an 18th century black slave who used her wits and sexuality to rise to a position of prominence in colonial Brazil. Diegues' version of her story is a lively and colorful evocation of this formative era in the Brazilian past. Zeze Motta is incredible in the title role. She brings to life a character who is sexy, playful, fiery, determined, and intelligent. The supporting cast is fine, and they play the film's comic scenes with particular gusto. "Xica" explores the complexities of life in colonial Brazil. Phenomena addressed include economic forces, the institution of slavery, and tensions involving the Portuguese government. The character interrelationships involve the many dichotomies of that culture: white and black, male and female, slave and free, government official and outlaw. At times, the "alien" nature of the institutions and relationships depicted made me feel like I was watching a science fiction film. "Xica" is filled with scenes of both tragedy and bawdy humor. It is rich in energy and exoticism. I strongly recommend this film to all those interested in Brazilian history, the institution of slavery, and racial/sexual politics.
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