Schwules Museum* is showing the award-winning documentary directed, written and produced by Lufe Steffen, portraying São Paulo’s queer scene of the late 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. It is named after one of the first nightclubs openly catering to gay men in the city, which in turn is named after a popular Brazilian vodka-orange-soda cocktail. Although the decades described in the film coincide the military dictatorship, the whole era is remembered as a blossoming of openly LGBTIQ* environments in town: lavish drag queen performances, New York style discotheques, bars and the first steps towards LGBTIQ* political protests and activist media.
São Paulo in Hi-Fi also shows how some of these establishments went from downtown areas, then affordable mostly for middle class people, to more elitist districts, following the city center’s devaluation — which only started to turn around in the 2010s. Due to their opulence and high society clientele some clubs became legendary, such as Medieval, Nostro Mundo, Homo Sapiens and Village.
As the dictatorship wilted in the 1980s, the promise of better and more liberated ‘queer’ times came to a hault with the devastating spread of HIV in Brazil. It lead to the shutdown of most of these clubs. They had had a refuge function in São Paulo until then, because LGBTIQ* people could easily be beaten up in the street or be rejected and killed by their families. Many people interviewed for this documentary describe São Paulo pre-1990 as a ‘Golden Era,’ totally different to today’s ‘unglamorous’ and much more politicized LGBTIQ* realities.