Director: Carlos Diegues
Starring: Zeze Motta (Xica da Silva), Walmor Chagas (Comendador João Fernandes), Altair Lima (Intendente), Elke Maravilha (Hortência), Stepan Nercessian (José), Rodolfo Arena (Sargento-Mor), Jose Wilker (The Count of Valadares), Marcus Vinicius (Teodoro), João Felicio dos Santos (Pároco), Dara Kocy (Zefina), Adalberto Silva (Cabeça), Julio Mackenzie (Raimundo), Beto Leão (Mathias), Luis Motta (Taverneiro), Paulo Padilha (Ourives).
Brazilian film with subtitles in English.
"A morning in the second half of the 18th Century near Arraial do Tijuco, (now the city of Diamantina) when gold and diamonds were mined from the beds of the rivers flowing down the mountains of Minas Gerais to enrich the Crown of Portugal."
A group of itinerant musicians are playing a musical performance on the road to Minas Gerais. When they finish the number Comendador João Fernandes says he's sorry he delayed the musicians, but as soon as he found out that they were musicians, he just felt he had to join in with them to play a tune. The leader of the musicians asks if the stranger is not also a musician? Fernandes says no, but the leader of the band says yes, he is. He's good enough to play with them. The leader's servant Mathias, however, says no, he's not a musician. Look at the fancy clothes he wears and the fancy horse he has.
The leader asks where is the stranger going? Fernandes says that he has just recently arrived in Brazil and now he's on his way to Arraial. The leader says a lot of people in Arraial have gotten rich. Fernandes wonders how can that be when the diamond mining is one person's monopoly, authorized in contract by his Majesty, the King of Portugal? The leader says yes and the new contractor is expected to arrive any day now. Mathias pops up and says that they say that in Arraial that the authorities divide with the defrauders the taxes due to the Crown. He adds that a safe was stolen and people blamed it on bandits, but others say the Intendant took the safe that was overflowing with gold dust destined for Lisbon.
The leader, Master Raimundo, says that some people talk too much. He then asks what is the job of the stranger? Fernandes gives his name and then drops a bombshell. He's the new diamond contractor. The musicians are shocked to find this out, but now they are interrupted by a gang of men. The leader is a black man named Teodoro. Teodoro knows the stranger is the new diamond contractor. He shows his men some diamonds he recently found. He tells the contractor that diamonds lay around in the gravel in this part of Brazil. And they don't need a diamond contractor to just pick the diamonds out from the gravel.
Teodoro takes the contractor's horse because his own horse broke a leg. Now he tells the contractor not to worry about his horse, because he's not thief and knows where to return the horse to the newcomer. After the gang has gone, Mathias asks Master Raimundo why don't they give a concert in Arraial?
The son of the Sergeant Major is at his house. He starts teasing Xica, a black female slave. She tells him no, not today. But the son, Jose, sneaks up on Xica, shouting: "Yah!! Oh yes, today. And also tomorrow, and everyday!" She resists for awhile. He takes her blouse off and then she runs into the barn. The son shouts out in glee and then runs in after Xica. They have sex.
Now the master, the Sergeant Major, calls out for Xica. He gets frustrated calling for her and calls her a black clock-head and a nigger of the devil. They have guests at the house, the Intendant and his wife. The wife, Madame Dona Hortensia, tells her husband that the Sergeant Major is here without his wife. It's said the his wife was too ill to travel to Brazil. Then they talk about what kind of man will the new contractor be? They are both sure he will be a son of the nobility. The Sergeant Major offers the couple something to drink, but the wife says that her husband is the highest authority her and he must be the first to receive the contractor.
The church bells start ringing upon the arrival of the new contractor. The people turn out to wish him welcome. The contractor looks a little funny because he has to ride in on a donkey. Xica rushes outside, but the Sergeant Major forces her back inside the house. The son tells Xica to go over to the window: "See how the people love those who exploit them." He calls the people "idiots".
Xica says that this contractor is different. "He's so handsome."
Xica washes the Sgt. Major in his bath. She uses the opportunity to say that she wants to meet this contractor. He says that's impossible, so Xica gives him the cold shoulder. He begs her to do something that he loves her to do to him. (not specified, but probably something sexual).
Teodoro returns the contractor's horse. The contractor smiles. Then he gets down to business. The Sergeant Major and the Intendant tell the contractor how smugglers get the diamonds out of Brazil and to the men of other nation's eager to buy the precious stones. And they say that Teodoro is the worst of the smugglers. They go on to say that they can't stop the smuggling because they don't have enough staff and not enough money. The Contractor says what they need is to find more diamonds. He goes on to say that Teodoro is really good at finding the places where the diamonds can be found. So they will keep an eye on Teodoro, and when he finds a good location, they will chase Teodoro out after he takes a few diamonds for himself and his gang.
Mr. Intendant says he doesn't think the Crown is going to approve of their not catching the smugglers and putting them in prison. The Contractor just laughs at the suggestion. He says that he wants to get rich quickly, and the Crown is not going to mind getting more riches along with him.
All of a sudden, Xica runs into the room saying she has something to tell the Sergeant Major. She complains about how many sexual favors she has to do for the son and the Sgt. Major, because they love her sexual services so much. She is advertising herself to the Contractor, and she has certainly got the man's attention. She says the son abuses her and rips away her clothing. She starts a demonstration of what she's talking about and exposes her breasts to the people in the room, but especially for the Contractor. And suddenly she is completely naked before the Contractor, who doesn't move a muscle.
The silence is broken when Don Hortensia lets out with a loud and long scream. They escort the woman out of the room. Next to come out is Xica covered in a blanket. She sticks her tongue out at Hortensia and Hortensia demands that this slave be punished. The Intendant says that the slave should receive 200 lashes. Her owner, however, doesn't want her whipped. He says he will give her the appropriate punishment by himself.
The Contractor tells the Sgt. Major that he could use this slave of his. He demands that the owner give him a price for the slave. The Sgt. Major doesn't want to sell her and he tells the Contractor that. Fernandes tells him to think about the matter for he's not in a hurry right now.
The Contractor now tells the Intendant that the failure to collect taxes for a long while, could mean exile of the Intendant to Africa. That really worries the Intendant, so now the Contractor says they can work something out between themselves on how to settle the matter. Now the Contractor asks the Sgt. Major about the price of the slave. The Contractor won over the favor of the Intendant, and now the Intendant demands that the Sgt. Major sell Xica to the Contractor.
At home the Sgt. Major chases his son around the property with a switch in his right hand, shouting that because of all the beatings he gave Xica, now he has to sell Xica. The son protests that he never beat her! So dad asks his boy how many times did he and Xica have intercourse? The answer is almost everyday. This news upsets dad and he sits down on the steps and starts to cry. His son tries to console him. The two of them now start calling Xica all kinds of dirty names.
Already, Xica is using her feminine wiles and sex to cement her relationship with the Contractor. (brief nudity) Fernandes is totally enchanted by her.
The female slaves can hear clearly the fooling around by the couple. A young female slave is disturbed by this. She asks another slave: "Won't he even have lunch?" And she gets mad when she sees that Xica is going to get a beautiful white gown from the master.
Xica comes out all giddy over her new dress. And the master treats her like a very cherished wife, pulling out a chair for her at the outdoors table. The jealous servants serves a soup to the master, but then turns to leave. Xica has to speak up that she wants some too! The servant looks at the Master and he tells her to serve Xica. She serves the soup but she deliberately gets it all over Xica's new dress. But now Xica demands that she clean the soup off her dress. Again the jealous servant looks to the Master, but he just watches what's going to happen. Xica starts slapping at the servant, demanding that she get busy cleaning her new dress. The servant has to clean the dress.
On the public square, slaves are being sold to interested buyers. At a bar, men talk about Xica and the Contractor. The bartender says that now the Contractor is Xica's slave. This is not all good for Xica, because now she is making a lot of enemies.
A vendor sees the Sgt. Major's son and asks him where is the home of the new Contractor? He adds that he has utter luxury from Paris and Lisbon ordered by the Contractor. The Sgt. Major has a good laugh saying that all this must be for Xica. His son goes through some of the trunks, announcing each type of fancy clothing for Xica. The son asks his father: didn't I tell you she'd go far? That Xica is a devil!
A pretty woman calls a courier over to her. She asks if he is soon returning to the Court? The courier says yes, as soon as he delivers his load. She tells him she will pay him very well, if he will secretly take her letter back to the Court in Lisbon.
At dinner with the Contractor, the Intendant tells him there are a lot of jealous people out there and they are talking nastily about the Contractor. He is afraid that the Crown will send a revenue inspector out here to end certain misuses. They are interrupted by Xica showing just how thrilled she is with all the new dresses she has received. She kisses the Contractor many times and he kisses her back. But then Xica sees a very pretty black female face and she doesn't like it. She asks who is this person? Her name is Figena and she arrived yesterday from Bahia. Xica says: "She's too pretty to serve João Fernandes." Instead the servant will serve her, Xica, so she can keep an eye on her.
The contactor is informed that Teodoro is here to speak with him. Teodoro asks the master: "Did a little negress called Celeste, run away from you?" He then asks what's the price for the girl? 200. Teodoro says he brought 600 for the girl and her recently delivered baby. He throws the money purse to the master main slave, Cabeça. He then says that it's he who has been leading the Contractor to the diamond locations. Indirectly, the Contractors says yes. Teodoro now sees the exquisitely dressed Xica and stares at her for a moment. Then he turns and leaves.
Now Xica tells Fernandes that she wants her freedom too, one day. She's very serious about it, so he says he will have the documents made up tomorrow. Now Xica is all smiles again. And now she wants to have sex with the former master. He tells her no because they have guests, but she insists and persists. The house servants are all watching from the available windows and when the Contractor yells out in pain and delight both, they scream and clap for joy for the couple.
Now that Xica is free, she tries to enter the church. The priest still says she can't enter the church because only whites to the sixth generation may enter here. The priest closes the door to Xica. She shouts a stream of obscenities at the church and its people.
The Contractor is down at one of his mining sites. One of his staff warns him that the dam is leaking and the pressure on the dam will rise. Fernandes tells the man not to worry about the dam because he will take full responsibility for it.
Xica comes out to the mining site and throw her certificate of freedom into the face of Fernandes. She says that the document is worthless and she wants her man to force white people to let her into their church. The Contractor tells her that he will build a chapel for her much prettier than the church. He tells Xica that he can't change the church and wants her to forget about the matter. Now he shows her what they are doing by damming the stream and searching for the diamonds in the gravel. And he promises to build her a chapel inside a grand palace that will be solely for Xica.
The palace is built and Xica sits on a throne surrounded by her many servants. She also has Raimundo's musical group play for her. She wants to know all about the gossip at the Court. At Court they complain that Xica protects run away slaves, while unskilled Portuguese who newly arrive here are sent to work with the slaves in the mines. The man who has been to Court recently asks her why has she never gone to see the Atlantic Ocean? She says she doesn't like traveling on the roads with the hot sun beating down on her. The man asks her, if she won't go down to the ocean, why not have her husband build Xica her own ocean of a sort right here on his property?
Xica asks, but Fernandes says no, no and no. Already there are too many reports and complaints going to the Court about his extravagances for Xica. The Court is worried that his prestige with the locals will take a severe hit. No, it's just not a time for even more extravagances.
Later, we see whites and blacks building a ship for Xica. They are going to create a huge lake on the property.
And now the ship floats on the lake with Xica and her servants on board. And, oh, the scandal that this creates. "The cheek! The Contractor is taking a big chance, it's a scandal! And for a Negress as ugly as this one! This is absurd! What a waste!" And on the ship the black women go topless and are chased around by the black males. The whites watch from the shore.
Fernandes tells the priest that he has heard that the Sgt. Major's son has gotten himself in trouble down in Villa Rica. The Intendant says he recently got a letter from Lisbon. It says that the Contractor was condemned for not complying punctually with royal orders. For instance, they say that the Contractor uses more slaves than permitted by contract. And Fernandes does not observe the boundaries of the lands. And there were many objects to the behavior of Dona Xica. The Contractor says he's not worried about the Crown, because even if he is called back to Lisbon, he has enough money to live the rest of his days in great happiness. And he will be very generous to those who are his friends and collaborators.
News arrives that the dam has burst. The waters destroyed everything and have taken many a life from the workers. Xica worries about all the whites leaving the shore and she figures that Fernandes needs her. She wants to dock the ship. Meanwhile, on the shore Hortensia tells her husband that they must liberate Tijuco from the disgrace of this former slave. And then Hortensia warns her husband that now it's unavoidable that a Court Inspector will arriver here soon.
As a matter of fact, the Court Inspector is already on his way to Tijuco. They soon arrive and Fernandes rides a short distance to great the inspector. The inspector looks somewhat effeminate and a bit strange.
Xica is preparing to receive the aristocrat. She objects to having lamb, but is told that's special for Dona Hortensia. So, Xica puts salt and hot peppers all over the lamb. Then she spits on the lamb repeatedly.
The inspector tells Fernandes about the many complaints against the Contractor. As he speaks, he suddenly sees Xica coming toward him saying good morning repeatedly to him. He says: "It's really a very strange land." He then shouts: "Have a look, Major. The Negress they talk so much about. She isn't very pretty, but they say she has a pact with the devil." He starts laughing and tells Fernandes that he see he likes his women very dark. Xica says that she understands that the Inspector doesn't like her skin color. Fernandes cautions her to watch what she's saying. She tells him not to worry because she will take good care of the inspector.
At the dinner table the lamb is brought out and then Xica comes out. She is wearing white-face. The white people are dumb-founded by her appearance. She urges the Inspector to eat the lamb because it's a specialty of the region. The Inspector and the Intendant and his wife have the lamb. Let's just say the dinner was not a success.
Xica is told to come to the church. The priest lets her in through a side door. There she encounters the Sgt. Major's son, Jose. The priest says that only Xica can save Jose now from charges of rebellion. Some of his friends have already been arrested for harboring him. Xica says she will hide him in her Monastery for Negroes.
Xica takes Jose to her monastery. On the way Jose tells Xica that the Contractor has enough money to pay for an army. This interests Xica. She goes to see Teodoro in the mountains. She does not like seeing the snakes and insects in the wild and frequently gives out with her screams. She finally reaches the hide-out. Teodoro asks her what does she want from him? She says she wants to raise an army to defend Joao Fernandes against the Count (that is, the Inspector) and the King. Teodoro tells her that Fernandes or the King, they are all the same to him. Nevertheless, Fernandes has left him in peace, and he would prefer Fernandes to the Count or the King. So he will help the Contractor, if he comes to see Teodoro by himself. And now Xica cements the deal by having sex with Teodoro.
Xica tells Fernandes about her plan. She says that they can create an army of outlaws, miners and Negroes. At first Fernandes is repulsed by the idea, but as he thinks about the very few alternatives he has, he decides to go see Teodoro at the Nitre Cave.
The Contractor arrests Teodoro, but then The Count and the Intendant grab Teodoro and question him under torture. Fernandes finds out about this and he rushes over to demand that the torture of Teodoro be stopped. The Count tells Fernandes that he heard the Contractor had a private deal with Teodoro. He then says: ". . . you must decide once and for all on which side you are." Fernandes leaves.
Xica tells Fernandes that none of his remedies for the situation have worked, so now she's going to do things her way.
The Count tells the Major that everything must be finished by tomorrow. They have spent enough time in Tijuco.
Xica sends a piece of jewelry to the Count. He wonders how much money the piece of jewelry is worth. Fernandes tells him they have something special prepared for the Count tonight. He adds that Xica has prepared an African banquet for the Count. Brandy is brought out for the Count and he starts drinking it. Then a lot of different food dishes are brought out and laid before the Count. And now comes the entertain with music and dance.
As the dance proceeds, the female dancers remove their blouses and Xica comes out only wearing a bikini-type bottom. She starts dancing away. She dances right in front of the Count, while her dancers dance behind her. The Count now appears as if possessed by some type of evil spirit. He grabs Xica and the two of them roll around in the food and play.
The next morning, Xica awakens surrounded by her women. She asks where did the Count go? They say he awakened in a bad temper and started kicking everybody. He called the Master in and told him he had a letter from the King to the Contractor. Then the Count left with his soldiers and all their luggage.
The Contractor now has to leave with the Count. Xica shows up at the public square to say goodbye to him. She begs him not to go, but he tells her he has to go by orders of the King. He rides out with the King and the soldiers.
Hortensia now starts yelling that all this happened to the Contractor because of Xica. The people agree that with so much shamelessness on the part of Xica things could only end this way. Everyone starts calling her names. She starts walking away form the square. The kids chase after her and start throwing stones at her. Xica starts running down to her private lake. There she sees her ship in the water burning down. The kids are there to taunt her. She starts throwing stones at the children. The kids just think it's all a big game.
Xica takes off running to her Monastery of the Negroes. Jose is there and he lets her in. He gives her food, but she's not hungry. He begs her to eat something. Having no success, he starts talking about how much he is enjoying his new life. He cheers her up by saying that they will live to piss on the Court. Xica says: "It's no good, Jose, my life is over!" Jose says he protests. Xica will never stop being Xica da Silva. He flatters her so much and talks about love. This puts Xica in one of her sexual trances and she goes after Jose. He says he can't do this and runs away from her, but she follows after him saying she feels the tingle. Jose tells her to behave herself for this is the house of God. She ignores his protests and catches up with him. Soon, Jose is screaming in pain and sexual bliss. He rings the monastery's bell.
Good move and a very sexual one. This is a great picture that lets the audience gain insight into the problems of slavery in Brazil. Brazil has a lot in common with the United States. Both nations had a long history of slavery and this influenced the structures of both nations as well as their values.
The Brazilians like to pretend they are racially tolerant, but this is mostly a pretend game. One difference between the racism of the US and the racism of Brazil is that the US only recognizes a distinction between black and white, whereas Brazil recognizes lots of different racial groups based on a gradient of skin color from darkest black to white. But, let it not be forgotten, that although there is less of the obvious racism in Brazil compared to the US, blacks in Brazil are still on the bottom of the social and economic scales.
This is reflected in this true story of a slave girl named Xica who by her sexual flirtation manipulates the sexual desires of her masters so that she gets what she wants. The new superintendent of mines for the "state" of Minas Gerais (means General Mines in Portuguese) becomes absolutely captivated by Xica's sexual aura and has to have her even though both of her masters (a father and son pair) do not want to let her go because they enjoy having sex with her so much.
The superintendent of mines becomes the richest man in the area, but trying to keep his money-hungry mistress Xica in the style she desires brings him near bankruptcy. One can see the racism bubbling up in the town populace as their jealousy and resentment toward Xica grows more and more. The superintendent is headed for trouble and you get to watch what happens.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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