Toll – Tiquinho Holiday’s “gay cure”

Image: Disclosure/ Toll


Musical performances by a young, poor, gay black man in the film directed by Carolina Markowick

 Tiquinho shares videos in which he dubs international singing divas. Among these, Billie Holiday. A singular voice, “inches wide”, made possible by the existence of the microphone (CASTRO, 2017). With “sorcery”, the singer “brought the lyrics to life, made the audience feel the pain”. In her musical vitality, she “put sex – painful, anxious sex – into every syllable of her songs” (KAPLAN, 2013, p.57). Musical performances by a young, poor, gay black man. Intersectionalities of “subaltern identities”, generating disgust for his mother. This one, in her restlessness, goes in search of a “cure” for her son. While looking for treatment, she falls prey to a religious pastor. Wolves in sheep's clothing and their seductive preaching. Visions projected in the film Toll (2023), directed by Carolina Markowick. Set in the São Paulo city of Cubatão, the cinematographic work opens up a critical reflection on the mistakes and violence practiced by the curators of a religious, salvific proposal, aimed at homosexuals, pederasts, “sinful” and “sick” sodomites, under the direction of Exu.

 In unveiling social masks, Toll shows the hidden side of the daily life of those who go to religious worship, are married and experiment with sexual practices with other partners, parallel to official, “normal” conjugality, framed by current moral and religious standards. Underneath the scenes, hidden, in a veiled way, the practice of sex outside the order of the eye of power. Hypocritical and Pharisaic attitudes, under moralistic veils. Between the sacred and the profane, a well-known popular saying is confirmed by behavioral transits: “one candle for God and another for the Devil”.

 In unveiling religious behavioral hypocrisy, Toll reveals the irresponsibility of those who, in the name of God, in their ignorance and dogmatism, without scientific basis, propagate fallacious healing promises. In evangelical temples, among the varied religious demands, a healing day is dedicated to “prayer for the restoration of physical and emotional health”. A source of profit in the competitive and transactional religious market. Among its various manifestations, yet another poisonous facet of religion receives a critical artistic look. In history, the association between homosexuality and sin brought dramatic and tragic consequences.

 On Brazilian soil, the “punitive God” of the “Holy Inquisition” discovered “the paradise” of “playful sinners”. From the colony to the present day, the “debauched” are targeted by “moral and family patrols” (TREVISAN, 2018). Control and cure are the verbs linked to medical-legal reactions and concerns with male homosexuality in 2022th century Brazil (GREEN, XNUMX). In the healing investments for her offspring, Tiquinho's mother spent time watching the sun rise squarely. An expensive therapy for her socioeconomic standard. In her anguish to get money and invest in the objective of treating her filial “disease”, she falls into illegality, becoming an accomplice in the robberies carried out by her lover.

In healing discourse, the anal “den” of bacteria and evil is demonized. In the hierarchy of body parts, under social control, the anus region occupies a lower position. Less noble than the lung? Treated as a “cesspool”, it loses focus on its potential for pleasure and sexual enjoyment. The expression “take it up the ass” has its pejorative and disrespectful uses. It is rude to those who enjoy anal penetration. In another direction, in the company's biographical evocations of Reinaldo Arenas' lyrics, I read about his erotic adventures and clandestine hookups. In his erotic games, “passive sex” is presented as one of his passions. In his “sexual voracity”, the “cursed” Arenas narrates his charming and pleasurable sexual gymnastics. Literary eroticism in which sex between men who have sex with men exalts the pleasure of being possessed by an “active” lover. In the literary light, “giving the ass” takes on different meanings, associated with noble enjoyments and existential ecstasies (ARENAS, 1995).

 Cinematic treatments of the “gay cure” are available for those interested in debating it. On screen, his torturous methods. Dramatic images, anchored in concrete biographical cases, reveal the hellish moments experienced by those who sought help from religious healers. “Prayers for Bobby”, directed by Russell Mulcahy and “Boy Erased: an annulled truth”, directed by Joel Edgerton, are exemplary. “How far can intolerance take us?” In Bobby's case, mourning his suicide (AARONS, 2023). In terms of a “somatopolitical rebellion”, it is an emancipatory, revolutionary project, based on the “emancipation of the vulnerable and subalternized living body” (PRECIADO, 2023, p.513).

 “Race, class and sex on screen”. Toll it is “lived cinema” in its magic as a “pedagogical tool”. As a “visual narrative”, the film conveys a “political message”. The emphasis on its “pedagogical role” promotes a reflection on the filmic potential of encouraging and promoting “a counter-hegemonic narrative in challenge to conventional structures of domination” (HOOKS, 2023, p.19). In this, bodies are controlled, watched, punished and domesticated. The religious rejections of the world and its directions are embodied by ambiguous individuals, whose desires conflict with each other in their salvific quests. Between carnal delights and divine states of grace, they taste different flavors. So joyful and painful.

Kauan Alvarenga, Tiquinho's interpreter, stands out in a historical situation in which “black people speak for themselves”, in “blackness” that occupy film festivals. In filmic “writings”, they face history and look head on at the cinematographic constructions they make. By stating that “the future is here”, names like Kauan Alvarenga are rewarded for composing “a style suitable for a decolonized interpretation” (RODRIGUES, 2011, p.149). Black actors producing presences and constructing “imaginaries, alterities and futurities” of imagery. Voices present on screens to “remember that pain is not the only way to exist”. “At the mouth of the world”, in ancestral and generational crossings, the Antonios Pitangas are protagonists and build our stories, towards a “new land”. In the dance of time, Kauan Alvarenga is the star of the scene in which futurity is the writing of his blackness. With the potential to join the list of “giant blacks”, Kauan Alvarenga takes on his role.

 From the screen, I am encouraged, by Tiquinho, to listen to Billie Holiday. I listen to the album “Lover Man” (1958). To my delight and surprise, I discovered that two of his songs were recorded by Gal Costa, with versions by Augusto De Campos for the album “Caras e Bocas” (1977). They are: “Crazy He Calls Me”, composed by Bob Russell and Carl Sigman and “Solitude” (Duke Ellington, Eddie DeLange, Irving Mills). Phonographic (i)discoveries to think about the audiovisual touches of PEDÁGIO.

*Francisco de Oliveira Barros Junior He is a professor at the Department of Social Sciences at the Federal University of Piauí (UFPI).


Direction and script: Carolina Markowicz
Cast: Maeve Jinkings, Thomas Aquino, Kauan Alvarenga


AARONS, Leroy. Prayers for Bobby: How far can intolerance take us? São Paulo: Hoo Editora, 2023.

ARENAS, Reinaldo. Before it gets dark. Rio de Janeiro: Record, 1995.

CASTRO, Ruy. The wave that rose from the sea: Brand new dives into Bossa Nova. São Paulo: Companhia das Letras, 2017.

GREEN, James N. Beyond Carnival: male homosexuality in 2022th century Brazil. São Paulo: Editora Unesp, XNUMX.

HOOKS, Bell. Lived cinema: race, class and sex on screen. São Paulo: Elefante, 2023.

KAPLAN, James. Frank: the voice. São Paulo: Companhia das Letras, 2013.

PRECIADO, Paul B. Dysphoria mundi: The sound of the world falling apart. Rio de Janeiro: Zahar, 2023.

RODRIGUES, João Carlos. The Brazilian black man and cinema. Rio de Janeiro: Pallas, 2011.

TREVISAN, João Silvério. wantons in paradise: homosexuality in Brazil, from the colony to the present. Rio de Janeiro: Objetiva, 2018.

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