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Rabu, 30 Maret 2011

Tata Amaral - Antonia (2006)

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Antonia
(Brazil)
By ROBERT KOEHLER
A Petrobras and ENDES presentation of a Coracao da Selva/O2 Filmes/Tangerina Entertainment/Globo Filmes production. (International sales: Lumina Films, London.) Produced by Georgia Costa Araujo, Tata Amaral. Co-producers, Andrea Barata Ribeiro, Bel Berlinck, Fernando Meirelles. Directed by Tata Amaral. Screenplay, Roberto Moreira, Amaral.

With: Negra Li, Leilah Moreno, Quelynah, Cindy, Thaide, Fernando Macario, Chico Andrade, Nathalye Cris, Thobias da Vai-Vai, Sandra de Sa.
(Portuguese dialogue)

A gal group with spunk, singing chops and a whole lot of personal crises provides a study in artistic survival in Tata Amaral's intimately crafted "Antonia." Something of a distaff companion to Brazilian megahit "Two Sons of Francisco" -- but more authentically rooted in working-class struggle -- pic's depiction of rising above is less a candy-coated inspirational pill and more a piece of solid dramatic fiction. Good local B.O. prospects and classy fest invites are assured.
Letters by singer Barbarah (Leilah Moreno) to group partner Preta (Negra Li) serve as a framing device for Roberto Moreira and Amaral's script, establishing the two characters' dreams of fame as part of a quartet named Antonia. Foursome is rounded off with Mayah (Quelynah) and Lena (Cindy), first seen reduced to a backup role in a male-dominated rap group.

Encouraging an improvisational approach from her young Afro-Brazilian cast, Amaral continues to use the same relaxed camera from her previous "A Starry Sky" and "Through the Window" as she follows the women through their efforts to put together a show of their own songs blending R&B with Brazilian-style hip-hop.

Their prospects seem bright, judging from the way they win over a skeptical crowd at the biggest club in their poor but throbbing (and hilly) Sao Paolo neighborhood. Self-styled agent and producer Marcelo (Thaide) instantly spots their talent and pitches the usual tune of riches to come. The gals are streetwise enough to pact with Marcelo yet never take him too seriously.

Amaral's concept seldom veers far from the standard melodramatic tropes of this brand of music-pic genre, which is perhaps why the pic's string of difficulties and near-tragedies are not as affecting as they're meant to be. Preta has split (with daughter Emilia in tow, played by the darling Nathalye Cris) from jealous husband Hermano (Fernando Macario), but when she spots Mayah flirting with Hermano, it causes a rift that reduces Antonia to a threesome.

Lena departs to have a baby, and tough but gorgeously voiced Barbarah lands in prison after avenging the attempted murder of her brother Duda (Chico Andrade).

Still, "Antonia" is less interested in incidents -- however many of them there are -- than in the quiet and powerful moments shared among friends, family members and audience, particularly when the group is in its element onstage.

Showing their range, the trio of Preta, Barbarah and Lena delivers one of the finest versions of Roberta Flack's hit "Killing Me Softly," while the thesps sing several numbers they penned themselves. It's this authenticity, combined with a subtle but heartfelt feel for their Vila Brasilandia 'hood, that gives the film a soulful backbeat.

Casting of actual singers and rappers proves crucial here, but Li, Moreno, Quelynah and Cindy can act with equal conviction. Li and Moreno particularly impress in dramatically demanding roles that hit a range of emotional temperatures.

Amaral's style is firmly grounded in Brazilian realism, which is why her depiction of Vila Brasilandia (abetted by Jacob Sarmento Solitrenick's grainy lensing) is so complete that the viewer feels utterly familiar with it by pic's end. Music rules, with a cornucopia of rap and pop leaving a satisfying taste.

More than one option
(Film) Antonia
(Person) Antonia
(Person) John Bisang
More than one option
(Film) Mitgift
(Tv) Killing Me Softly
Camera (color), Jacob Sarmento Solitrenick; editor, Ide Lacreta; music, Beto Villares, Parteum; production designer, Rafael Ronconi; sound (Dolby Digital), Joao Godoy; sound designer, Eduardo Santos Mendes; associate producer, Guel Arraes; casting, Patricia Faria. Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Contemporary World Cinema), Sept. 8, 2006. Running time: 89 MIN.

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