'It's the West Side Story of the Brazilian favelas'. Indeed - but for all the energy, goodwill and rhythmic drive of this colourful teen musical, what sounds great on the poster is less convincing on the screen. Though some of the dance sequences are terrific, the familiar Romeo-and-Juliet gang-warfare story that glues them together would have benefited from a good script editor, and the film drags too often when it should be fizzing with life.
There's no denying the commitment and enthusiasm of the cast, most of whom are non-professionals from the same underprivileged favelas background as the characters they portray. The goodwill factor will help Another Love Story to get to audiences that its let's-make-a-film production values may not otherwise have reached, and fans of contemporary Brazilian music - of the hip-hop, rap and electronic bossanova-fusion variety - will want to check this out. But outside of specialist outlets, theatrical distribution beyond Latin America looks unlikely. Given the young target audience, DVD looks the most obvious way of getting this out to those whose hearts beat to that nu-samba rhythm.
The first eight minutes are pure joy, as we pitch right into a vibrant dance number that has the camera dipping in and out of favelas shacks, squares and alleyways as we're introduced to some of the main characters, who break into seemingly impromptu team dance steps before peeling off into real life once more. But all good things come to an end, and soon we're in familiar favelas-soap territory, as pretty heroine Analidia (Cristina Lago) argues with her mother about visiting her jailbird father, and aspiring DJ Jonatha (Vinicius D'Black) finds himself caught between two brothers, one a censorious idealist and the other, Dudu (Babu Santana) the local gang leader and neighbourhood drug boss.
When Jonatha and Analidia meet at a club it's love at first sight, with none of the usual boring preliminaries. But with pa in prison, Analidia is under the protection of her cousin Be (Jefchander Lucas) leader of a rival gang. The only neutral territory is the dance class set up by politically engaged dancer Fernanda (Marisa Orth), whose classical ballet colleagues are sceptical that the contemporary dance project she so passionately believes in is going to change anything in the favelas. As the gang warfare hots up, the dance troupe comes under pressure from both sides, and our young lovers' cross-faction love shimmies and breakdances its way to its tragic end.
Along the way there are some corking dance numbers - particularly a (literally) traffic-stopping sequence on a girder bridge. The camerawork captures the claustrophobic maze of the favelas, keeping shots tight and airless (the only 'open' location is a brief scene set on Copacabana beach, whose spoilt rich kids flee in rather unconvincing terror from these actually fairly tame-looking slum dwellers). But some of the footage is shoddily staged and edited, and regular insets of a gangsta-style rap group that is intended as a kind of Greek chorus are annoying rather than illuminating.
In the end we fall back on the rich and varied musical soundtrack - which ranges from dark, melodic hip-hop to traditional bossanova and extracts from Prokofiev's ballet Romeo and Juliet. Another highlight is Marisa Orth, whose authoritative performance as the idealistic dance teacher whose experiment ends in tragedy gives the film's worthy non-professional actors a benchmark to aim for.
Talga Filmes e Video (Br)
Gloria Films (Fr)
Lavoragine Films (Urug)
+33 1 5395 0455