My name is Gal

Frame from the film "My name is Gal"/ Disclosure


Considerations about the film directed by Dandara Ferreira and Lô Politi

My name is Gal (2023) is a biopic of one of the greatest singers of Brazilian popular music, Gal Costa (1945-2022). The film highlights Gal Costa's role not only as a singer, member of one of the country's main cultural movements, tropicalismo, but also how she naturally entered a feminist struggle, without political party programming. Due to her authentic personality and without her being fully aware of what she could be representing, Gal Costa ended up becoming a reference for Brazilian women.

In the film, the woman occupies a central place throughout the production, as in addition to being a tribute to the singer (played by Sophie Charlotte in the main role), it is also directed by Dandara Ferreira and Lô Politi and written by Maíra Bühler. and Lô Politi. Throughout the narrative, the viewer is surprised by the strong presence of Gal's mother, Mariah Costa Penna, her great supporter, who listened to classical music every day during her pregnancy, so that “a musical person” would be born. In the film and in Gal's story, her father was absent, which led her to choose her maternal surname, Costa, as her stage name.

 The narrative highlights the first years of the singer's career, starting in 1967, when the shy Gracinha (Maria da Graça Costa Penna Burgos), nicknamed Gal by her closest friends, arrived in Rio de Janeiro; until 1971, when she definitively asserted her originality in musical interpretations and her confluence with the tropicalista movement.

It is worth remembering that when the father of bossa nova, João Gilberto, met her in Bahia, he immediately considered her to be the best and most in tune interpreter of Brazilian music, probably because she displaced the tradition cultivated by singers from Radio, who loved the rococo of voices, densely expressed in robust sound content. Bossa nova called for intimacy and discretion of feelings, in a controlled melancholy, contrary to the scenes of jealousy and “pain in the neck” of radio singers.

The bossanovista style would accompany Gal Costa until he joined his Bahian friends in Rio de Janeiro. From then on, under the encouragement of Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil (who never freed themselves from Dorival Caymmi and João Gilberto, that is, with solid Bahian roots, even though they were determined to create new forms and contents, mixing the regional, the Brazilian and the universal), Gal Costa integrated himself into the inevitable political spontaneity of tropicalist proposals.

It was a time of music festivals and the emergence of new talents, during the violent and repressive years of the military dictatorship in Brazil (1964-1985). In front of the screen, the viewer can remember or know the beautiful interpretation of Wandering Heart, from the first album, Sunday, which Gal Costa recorded in partnership with Caetano Veloso, in 1967. Revealing herself to be a faithful disciple of João Gilberto, Gal enchanted and did not lose tune in her bossano voice, enchanting a more mature audience, generally from the upper middle class, luxuriant and alcoholic , which constituted the majority of those who were used to hearing the sound of bossa nova in nightclubs, bars and large hotels in Rio de Janeiro, in the early and mid-1960s.

In 1969, Gal released his first solo album Gal Costa. She was already another woman, much more whole. A more “modern” and laid-back singer, well in tune aesthetically, musically and politically with the Tropicalist movement, with a strong influence from James Brown and Janis Joplin, she opted for a strident, metallic voice, closer to Brazilian rock.

The turning point (from bossa nova to tropicalismo) occurred at the 4th Brazilian Popular Music Festival on TV Record, in 1968, when Gal Costa performed Divine, Wonderful, music by Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil, and obtained 3rd place. Gal Costa took the stage accompanied by an electric guitar band and the female choir of Ivete and Arlete. Her frizzy, untamed hair and futuristic clothes with sparkles, sequins and mirrors created a disruption, not only in her trajectory, but in that of the movement and Brazilian popular music itself.

Even today, his high-pitched voice echoes in the ears of Brazilians the refrain, “we must be attentive and strong, we are not afraid of fearing death”. Assuming a rocker mise-en-scène and singing aggressively, it was a “cry of rage” against everything: against the boredom and melancholy of the upper middle class, against a fraction of alienated youth (who booed her) and against violence of the government that emerged from the 1964 coup. The very different style, marked by the softness of Vagabond Heart. The expression “divine, wonderful” ended up being appropriated by part of the public and the song became the main track on the LP Gal CostaOf 1969.

In 2005, in an interview, Gal Costa managed to summarize what participating in the Festival was like: “I sang with all the fury and strength that I had in me. Half the audience stood up to boo. The other half applauded fiercely. A man in front of me was shouting insults. It was then that a greater force came to me and threw me against him. She sang directly to him: “We need to be alert and strong, we don’t have time to fear death!” He sang with such force and such violence that the little man began to quiet down, shrinking, and disappeared into himself. It was the first time I felt what it was like to dominate an audience. And an angry audience. At that time of political polarization, music was the only form of expression. It aroused passions, real wars. Gone out Divine, Wonderful strengthened, grown. I think that night I entered the stage as a teenager, a girl, and left as a woman. Suffered, broken, but victorious.”

My name is Gal highlighted this important moment in the singer's life, when she became aware that to sing, it wasn't enough to have a voice: she needed to have an attitude! And it was with attitude that she took the stage. On the screen, we see a strong woman emerge, who sings and expresses herself with her entire body, occupying the entire stage, an attitude that will accompany Gal Costa throughout her career. With the interpretation of Divine, Wonderful, Gal Costa became an icon of the tropicalist movement.

Tropicalism and politics

In the first instance, tropicalism[I] was a Brazilian cultural movement in the second half of the 1960s. Even though music was its main element, the movement extended to cinema,[ii] to the plastic arts, theater, painting and literature. Its main brand was radical aesthetic innovation, mixing elements of popular culture and tradition, with foreign trends, especially electric guitar and rock, elements of global youth culture.

The prominent figures were singer-songwriters Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil, but singer Gal Costa, singer-songwriter Tom Zé, conductor Rogério Duprat and cultural producer Guilherme Araújo also played a very important role. The movement represented a renewal in the Brazilian musical context by uniting popular genres, such as baião and caipira, with pop and rock. The movement's defining moments were the release of the album Tropicália or Panis and Circenses, in 1968, and the Brazilian Popular Music Festivals, held by TV Record, especially the 3rd Festival (1967), when Caetano Veloso performed Joy Joy and Gilberto Gil, alongside the band Os Mutantes, Sunday at the park, true protests against the authoritarianism of the military government.

At that time, analysts from mainstream left-wingers, like Robert Schwartz, failed to understand the tropicalist movement and there are still those who condemn it today. Much of the traditional left expected these new actors to assume, in some way, a teleological critique of capitalism. The most active intellectuals, journalists and critics, in general, were theoretically trained by the aesthetics of social realism and others in a “socialist realism” framework.

Controversies about adjusting to an aesthetic model were carried out, as they still are, as if it were possible to abstract the conditions in which a true work of art (and as such) can emerge. It is curious to note that, with regards not only to aesthetics, but also to the performances that the tropicalistas developed, as well as their habits and criticism of the dominant double morality, they shocked both the left and the right to the same extent.

At first, these questions also distressed them, after all they sought authenticity in new ways. Theorizations appeared mainly in Caetano's reflections, not so much in Gil's. In both very spontaneous ways. They practiced a kind of “empirical criticism”, almost instinctive, which did not accept fitting in, either with the schemes of the traditional PC left, or with the moral models of a moribund liberalism, which would soon capitulate to the forces of boots and rifles.

Two comments help to understand the genesis of the movement. One appears in the testimony of Nelson Motta (2000, p. 95-6): “One summer night, just before the 1968 carnival, I spent hours drinking beer and talking to Glauber Rocha, Cacá Diegues, Gustavo Dahl and Luiz Carlos Barreto at the Bar Alpino, in Ipanema. Enthusiastic about new cinema, Teatro Oficina, Gil and Caetano's albums, excited about the political moment and about that artistic movement that had not been articulated nor had a name, but was in full swing, with so many new features and so much power, we began imagining a party to celebrate the new movement. (…) The next day, with the dramatic lack of news that afflicts columnists in the Rio summer, I used all the space in the column to tell, in the form of a mocking manifesto, all the nonsense we had imagined in Alpino. Under the title “Cruzada Tropicalista”, I irresponsibly filled half a newspaper page celebrating the artistic moment with an imaginary future party. (…) The party never took place, but the column had great repercussion and was surprisingly taken seriously, heatedly commented for and against in other newspapers, on radio and television, which began to refer to Gil and Caetano's movement as tropicalismo ”.

The testimony of Caetano Veloso (2003, p. 35) also helps in understanding the origin of tropicalism: “It is very political, from the period of the marches, from the preparation for the clandestine struggle. It was done very consciously. Many didn’t understand, they thought the Tropicalists were alienated because we didn’t play the role of conventional leftists.”

It is possible to find, in another text, referring to the context of the genesis, the following dialogue between Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso: “The work we did, Caetano and I, arose more from an enthusiastic concern for the discussion of the new than exactly as a organized movement. I think that only now, depending on the results of our initial efforts, can we think about programming and managing this new material that has been launched on the market. I was even suggesting, yesterday, talking to Gil, the idea of ​​a manifesto album, made by us now. Because until now our entire working relationship, despite having been together for a long time, was born more of a friendship. Now things are put in terms of the Bahian Group, of the movement…”

“Gal and Betânia, although they did not participate directly in the discussions that led us to these discoveries, are committed, as interpreters, to taking them on. And there is an even more unique detail. Because Bethânia, on the one hand, is rebellious, terrible, she can't stand programming, she wants to discover things for herself, but on the other hand she was the first to draw Caetano's attention to the importance of iê-iê-iê” .

“As for Gal, it seems to me that, in the sense that the recognition of João Gilberto as an innovative milestone can be taken as a fundamental element, she is the very symbol of this recognition. There is no Brazilian singer who has the ability to use her voice functionally and instrumentally like her” (In: Risério, 1982, p. 105).

Therefore, the degree of spontaneity of this musical-cultural movement seems evident. And, at the same time, how the movement itself will modify the actors, who become aware of how they reverberate in people, called the public, in short, citizens. They soon realized that, if they wanted to change something in the country, they would need to not capitulate to the dictates of the market, or those who dominated politics at that time, but use them to create transformative impacts.

They intended mass art, but without renouncing their aesthetic values. They proposed a chameleonic, mutant art. In fact, Os Mutantes was the name of a band that accompanied Tropicalismo for a long time. In it, another female leader, the English-Brazilian Rita Lee, with her “mutants”, would be a separate chapter in Brazilian popular music, inaugurating a pop rock critical of consumer society and the hypocrisy of habits and customs. They were the ones who produced the bass and guitar chords at important moments in the path of tropicalism. And, in 1968, they accompanied Caetano Veloso in his controversial performance of It's Forbidden To Forbid. The futuristic clothes, made with bright plastic in bright colors, revealed all the rebelliousness and imagery potential of the movement.

The political dimension of tropicalism appears as an almost spontaneous, visceral reaction at first, but which was worked on, elaborated. Possibly, if the military dictatorship had not existed at that time, this dimension would have been more hidden, submerged by the avalanche, at once Brazilian and universalist, that united northeastern poets and singers with the counterculture of beatniks, hippies and undergrounds of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. North Americans and Europeans, to the rebelliousness of Russian or futurist poets at the beginning of the XNUMXth century.

Perhaps, it could be said, that tropicalist aesthetic heterodoxy sought to get rid of recipes and models, but was open to all progressive and de-alienating aesthetic movements of the 1922th century. In Brazil, its greatest reference was the Modern Art Movement of XNUMX, whose exponents, but not only, were Mário de Andrade, Oswald de Andrade and Tarsila do Amaral. The modernists intended a renewal of Brazilian art and culture, seeking to recover the country's deepest cultural and historical values.

The tropicalist movement, on the other hand, had a greater ambition. Without renouncing such values ​​(even incorporating elements that appear in the 22 movement), it placed itself on a more universalist level. However, the Brazilian and global political context (the Cold War, the Vietnam War, May 68, the military dictatorship in Brazil) boosted the political expression of tropicalism. The devouring greed of them all, synthesized by Caetano, digested the “cursed poets”, but also the Beatles and Jimi Hendrix, and the electric guitars appeared with dissonant force.

After the João Goulart government (1961-1964) promoted a series of reforms, aiming to alleviate social inequality in the country, a strong movement on the political right was organized proposing conservative modernization. This faction (made up of more reactionary sectors of the National Congress, the upper and middle classes, the media and the Catholic Church) obtained support from the Army and removed João Goulart's government through a military coup: the year was 1964.

Until 1968, even under a dictatorship, intellectuals and artists had a certain freedom, even if they often had problems with State censorship. During the Costa e Silva government (1967-1969), especially with AI-5 (Institutional Act no.o. 5), there was an increase in the use of censorship. Political parties were made illegal, workers strikes were criminalized, artists and intellectuals were persecuted. The government was marked by arrests, torture and murders. Even today, it is not known exactly what happened to the victims of the regime, even with the creation of the National Truth Commission (in 2011, by the government of Dilma Rousseff), responsible for investigating serious human rights violations committed in Brazil, in the period from 1946 to 1988.

Tropicalism therefore appeared within a country convulsed by these facts. Therefore, in addition to a renewal in the artistic scene, especially music, the movement ended up acquiring a strong political engagement that definitively marked it, without, however, its aesthetic dimension being relegated to dominant values. On the contrary, politics gave an original and special tone to its aesthetics. In this context, tropicalism assumed a resistant stance, combating authoritarianism and social inequality, proposing a new aesthetic expression that is engaged, participatory and against all forms of alienation, defending freedom of loving expression, the beauty of naked bodies and justice Social.

MPB songs and festivals became a space for struggle and denunciations. Gil and Caetano did a program on TV Tupi, in 1968, which lasted almost three months. The program was called Divine, Wonderful. The irony and irreverence were sharp, not only in the music, but in the clothing. It was an absolute success. The program acquired this name because music producer Guilherme Araújo had the habit of classifying what the tropicalistas were doing as “divine, wonderful”. But, as previously analyzed, it was the voice of Gal Costa, singing the song of the same name, at the Festival da All time lap record, which popularized the expression, in the same period in which the program was shown on Tupi.

The artistic and musical leadership of Caetano and Gil did not go unpunished. They were arrested in December 1968, after the last program Divine, Wonderful. The recordings, it seems, were destroyed, with the intention of protecting the singers, as they were in charge of the program, which was already considered, due to the audience and the audacity of the presenters and guests, as the biggest live program in Brazilian television auditorium.

Caetano and Gil were released in February 1969 and in July they went into exile in London. They only returned to Brazil in 1972. Gal Costa chose to stay in Brazil, facing censorship and threats. It was the way he found to not let tropicalism die. She continued using her voice and her body, as she had done in Divine, Wonderful, not just to sing and enchant audiences, but to reveal all their indignation and combat an authoritarian and unjust government, in addition to the hypocrisy of a morality inherited from colonization, which still survived in the dominant social strata. Thinking from a distance, she can be included in the pantheon of women in the Brazilian feminist movement.

Gal and the emancipation of women – freedom passes through the body

In 1971, with the live album Fatal – Gal at full steam, the singer (who was only 26 years old), created a bodily identity: wearing only a top and a skirt well below her navel and with long slits, Gal sat (on the benches placed on the stages during her shows) with her legs naked and open, sensually placing the guitar in the middle of them, to sing that it was “love from head to toe”.[iii]

The image shocked the more conservative public, while at the same time attracting younger people. The album also represented the singer's definitive political engagement, positioning herself as one of the spokespeople against the military dictatorship, even if she only spoke through music. In 1973, Gal released the album India. The cover featured an image of the singer's pubic region, inside images of her half-naked. The album was censored by the military government for “hurting morals and good customs”.

However, his challenging attitude was not restricted to the stage or the albums he recorded. Still in the 1970s, Gal frequented Ipanema beach, in a place that became known as “Gal's dunes”, wearing small and daring bikinis. The place, previously almost deserted, began to be frequented by alternative people, attracted by Gal Costa's hippie style. It was a magical moment, in which the singer became a kind of muse of Brazilian tropicalist counterculture. Twenty years later, in 1994, Gal Costa sang Brazil, composed by singer Cazuza, exposing her bare breasts.

The image of bare breasts is associated with forms of struggle, protest and resistance, against the patriarchal, sexist and conservative, often misogynistic, order.[iv] Em My name is Gal, the way in which the singer appropriated her own body emerges with great intensity. There is no shortage of scenes of Sophie Charlotte wearing skirts below her navel (everyday or at shows), in a daring bikini on the beach and with her long hair disheveled.[v]

Another element of Gal Costa's body identity was her mouth painted with red lipstick. The wide smile and thick lips were even more sensual in the red tone. In the film, right after Gracinha has chosen her professional name, she sits in front of the mirror and looking at her own eyes, writes with red lipstick: Gal Costa. Interestingly, throughout the narrative the actress never appears with red lips, only in the final scenes of the film, on a deserted beach, in a wide shot in which she appears from behind, walking towards the sea in just her panties, Sophie Charlotte turns towards the camera and, in a close-up of her face, she paints her lips red.

Recovering the way Gal Costa felt comfortable and took control of her body raises the debate about the process of alienation that women have gone through and still go through in relation to their bodies. Since the 2023th century, a period of primitive capital accumulation, as Silvia Federici (186, p. 1550) explains, women have been alienated from their own bodies: “the female body was transformed into an instrument for the reproduction of work and expansion of the workforce, treated as a natural creation machine, which operated according to rhythms beyond the control of women”, who ended up losing power over their sexuality, procreation and motherhood. Capitalism gave rise to a more oppressive patriarchal regime, promoting a feminicide attack against women, materialized in the witch hunt, which peaked between 1650 and 200, when more than 100 women were accused and more than 2023 murdered. Hunting witches was fundamental “to the construction of a new patriarchal order in which women’s bodies, their work and their sexual and reproductive powers were placed under the control of the State and transformed into economic resources” (Federici, 313, p. 4- XNUMX).

In this context, the body became the main space for exploration, as women were imprisoned in their bodies to be better explored and repressed.

More than three centuries after the end of the witch hunt (which was not restricted to Europe, extending to the Americas, especially Brazil, in the centuries of colonization), the reappropriation of their own bodies by women is still on the agenda of feminist movements. It's not just about the right to vote, inclusion in the job market and equal pay. As important as these struggles and achievements are, they do not cover all of women's needs, which in addition to material independence and professional fulfillment, also need to be respected in their most intimate desires.

Topics such as female sexuality (which includes orgasm), lesbianism or bisexuality and abortion are still taboos in Brazilian society, which remains strongly moralistic and conservative, making women prisoners in their own bodies. Regardless of their desires, desires, sexuality and needs, they need to follow the current order to be respected, which often means disrespecting themselves.

The example that the statistical data provide is frightening when it comes to crimes against women in Brazil. In 2023, 3.181 cases of violence against women were recorded. Every 24 hours, eight women were victims of assault, torture, threats or harassment. Among the cases of violence, 1.463 were femicides, that is, one woman every six hours was the fatal victim of aggression in Brazil, the vast majority (more than 70%) by partners or exes.

The number represents an increase of 1,6% compared to the previous year, which reveals that the State continues to fail in its task of protecting women. The increase is also contrary to the trend: while the number of homicides fell by 3,4%, the number of crimes against women increased (Bueno, 2024). These numbers reveal the need to rethink the role of femininity and women's rights in patriarchal and capitalist societies, especially in a society that maintains a slave mentality in much of the social practice of its elites, such as Brazil.

The deepening of social contradictions (at a time when social exploitation grew passi passu with the application of neoliberal policies and the drastic reduction of public policies required, including by the World Bank and the IMF, so that the Brazilian State can balance its public accounts) has only increased and fermented a terrain that is deeply conducive to the worsening of treatment degrading in relation to women, especially poor, black and mixed-race women, treated as objects of consumption and cruel exploitation, working double shifts, outside and inside their homes.

Not only do other middle- and upper-class women, who can pay domestic workers' wages, exploit them, but also their own partners (super-exploited in their jobs or working informally) take out their frustrations and the violence they experience in other environments on them. .

Faced with this reality, Gal Costa's behavior becomes even more daring. Not only as a singer, moving through bossanovista timbres, rock, tropicalismo and the most diverse Brazilian cultural genres, but also when using her own body in defense of an agenda of political, cultural and social freedom for women.

The film in her honor also fulfills this role, in a pedagogical way, it encourages reflection on rights, and, above all, encourages women to reappropriate themselves and their bodies, assuming their identities and desires and recognizing themselves as authors of their stories. In front of the screen, the viewer is invited to take a more active role. He is invited to clench his fist and join in a “we are all @ s Gal”.

*Soleni Biscouto Fressato holds a PhD in social sciences from the Federal University of Bahia (UFBA). She is the author, among other books, of Soap operas: magic mirror of life (when reality is confused with the spectacle) (Perspective).

*Jorge Nova He is a full professor in the Department of Social Sciences at UFBA. Author and organizer, among other books, of Cinematographer: a look at history(EDUFBA \ Unesp), with Soleni Biscouto Fressato and Kristian Feigelson.

Text originally presented in X Jornadas de Historia y Cine. In solo muses and divas: women and arts (2024), from the Carlos III University of Madrid.


My name is Gal
Brazil, 2023, 87 minutes.
Directed by: Dandara Ferreira and Lô Politi.
Screenplay: Maíra Bühler and Lô Politi.


BUENO, Samira et al. Femicides in 2023. São Paulo: Brazilian Public Security Forum, 2024. Available at: .

COSTA, Gal. The wonderful divine. [Interview given to] Ana de Oliveira. Tropicalia, 2005. Available at: .

CAMPOS, Augusto de. Bossa Balance and other Bossas. São Paulo: Perspective, 1974.

FEDERICI, Silvia. Calibã ea Bruxa. Women, body and primitive accumulation. 2ed. São Paulo: Elefante, 2023.

BRAZILIAN Public Security FORUM. Violence against girls and women in the 1st half of 2023. Sao Paulo, 2023.

MOTTA, Nelson. Tropical Nights – solos, improvisations and musical memories. São Paulo: Objective, 2000.

OLIVERIA, Ana de. Tropicália or Panis et Circenses. São Paulo: Iyá Omin, 2010.

RISÉRIO, Antonio. Gilberto Gil. Express 2222. Salvador: Corrupio, 1982.

VELOSO, Caetano. About the lyrics. São Paulo: Companhia das Letras, 2003.


[I] More information about tropicalism can be found on the website Tropicalia, organized by Ana Oliveira. Available in:

[ii] Glauber Rocha, leader of the Cinema Novo Movement, lived with the Tropicalists in bars, at parties and discussions, although he does not appear in the film, as does cultural critic Nelson Motta.

[iii] Song chorus take a ride (Novos Baianos, 1971). Interpretation by Gal Costa available on the YouTube channel Biscoito Fino. Available in: .

[iv] Idea defended by Silvia Federici, in Calibã ea Bruxa (2023), based on the experience she lived in Nigeria during the 1980s, following the various methods of struggle of women from the popular classes during European colonization. Showing one's breasts and, in extreme cases, one's genitals, was a form of desperation, but also of protest and resistance. The documentary Topless River (2019), by Ana Paula Nogueira, also defends the idea that showing breasts is a form of protest and resistance by women.

[v] No wonder the singer released, in 1990, the song Hair. In the chorus, a synthesis of herself: “hair, hair, hair, disheveled”.

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