Director Henrique Goldman tenderly calls Princesa "the story of an outsider struggling to fulfil a dream". Producer Rebecca O'Brien, however, is more blunt, describing it as "Pretty Woman - - but Julia Roberts has a dick".
Set in the seedy streets inhabited by Milan's transvestite sex workers and their allegedly straight clients, Goldman's feature follows Fernanda (Ingrid De Souza), a pre-op transsexual from the Brazilian backwoods who dreams of finding her prince in a pond of toads. The themes (sexual exploitation, mutable gender identity) read like a Guardian feature, but the director's warm, non-judgemental storytelling thankfully favours art over worthy voyeurism.
Leading a largely amateur cast whose nervy brio redeems their lack of polish, 19-year-old De Souza - - whose life largely parallels Fernanda's - - is a true find. Awkward, fragile, stubborn and seductive, she's an Amazonian Jaye Davidson, turning the debased coin of Fernanda's realm into a regal, affecting performance.