Tropic of Capricorn (Dir: Kika Nicolela, 2005)

Running Time: 30 min


Tropic of Capricorn is a short documentary by Kika Nicolela that tells the tales of Brazilian transsexuals. The filmmaker rented out a hotel room. Over the course of an evening four transsexuals are brought in one-by-one. They lie upon the bed and tell their stories to the camera which is mounted on the ceiling, echoing the film’s title, “Tropic of Capricorn,” the southernmost point at which the sun can appear directly overhead.

The transsexual subjects that the camera is poised on are quite visually odd. However, challenging the viewer’s expectation, this visual oddity is not rooted in their transexuality. Instead, they “glow.” Through the use of video filters, each character radiates their own unique color. And so not only are we put in a strange position as a viewer but also the transsexual subjects are made equally strange. The setting equal of the strangeness of the viewer and the subject is telling. It is an early sign in the film of the politics of “setting equal” and “seeing as the same”.
They crawl into bed or cuddle. Some splay out while others straddle. All take their own unique position upon the bed and all tell their story. In regards to the topic at hand, the bed seems to be of great importance. It serves as a location of comfort, home and intimacy. Moreover, for the transsexuals interviewed that worked as prostitutes the bed is even more familiar. It is the workplace. The intimacy that the bed affords adds to the identification of the viewer to the interviewee. Moreover, the lack of camera movement which places the locus solely on the bed and the transsexual offers a similar intimacy.
From above, the glowing transsexual looks not so much different than sensational fictional alien autopsy: odd colors, strange anatomy. At first this may cause a resistance and designation of otherness for the viewer. However, the aforementioned intimacy that is established refuses this. “All I really wanted to do was work abroad and settle down…thats it,” says Jessica as she glows red. It is hard to imagine this not being a universal sentiment of all persons. It is not a transsexual speaking but a human being and perhaps they’re not that different after all. And so taboo has been confronted. A fearful situation is established. The audience is thrust into a dark room with a sexually “other” person and the bed is right there. Oh No! But soon enough, through the gripping conversations that the interviewees have, the focus is shifted from the visual and superficial to something deeper seated.
Since the films release in 2005 it has been honored, among other places, at the Sopot Independent Film Festival as “Best Documentary” and has been nominated as “Best Film” at both the International Experimental Film Festival Carbunari and Mostra do Filme Livre. Such films, especially addressing such taboo topics often find little distribution space and eventually see quite a small audience in places like festivals. However, the advent of Internet media films like this can be found much more easily by those seeking media addressing such topics. As of April 2007, The film is legally available in its entirely on multiple streaming Internet sites such as