Dir: Tata Amaral. Br. 2006. 90mins.
The third feature from film-maker TataAmaral, Antoniatakes a well-sung genre - the rap group from the wrong side of the tracks whotry to make it big in the face of ruptured friendships - and gives it theunique flavour of a Sao Paolo favela.It is further distinguished by its female cast, all real-life musicians whoalso composed the memorable score, and allows Amaral toexplore the womens' unique domestic issues. The resultis a film that seems fresh, despite the fact that this is well-trodden Commitments-style cinematic ground.
However, despitesome knockout performances and interesting glimpses into the characters' lives,Amaral fails to follow through on the weightier plotstrands; at 90 minutes, Antoniaultimately feels like a wasted opportunity.
The film's lackof depth will make it a tough sell on the international arthousecircuit, despite the lure of Mereilles' name asexecutive producer and the score, performed by four undeniably-sexy girls. Antonia will undoubtedly do excellent,chart-topping business at home in Brazil, however, and perform strongly inSouth American markets where it is released. Niche releasing in expat communities should also provide solid returns. Itscreened in Contemporary World Cinema at Toronto.
A lively venturethroughout, Antonia presents fourchildhood girlfriends whose group, Antonia, catches a lucky break when the rapgroup they support gives them a chance to fly solo. A quirky promoter Diamond (Thaide) signs up the quartet, but these talented girls allhave problems at home: Preta's (Li) marriage breaksup and she takes out her frustration on Mayah (Quelnyah); Barbarah's (Moreno)brother is beaten up because he is gay, sparking the feature's most dramaticsequence; and Lena (Cindy) becomes pregnant, leading her partner to become evenmore possessive and demand she leaves the group.
To make money,the girls - rappers at heart - find themselves playing cabaret venues - but astheir success increases, the group dramatically begins to fall apart.
At 90 minutes, Antonia never outstays its welcome, butits truncated ending is something of a disappointment given the meticulousset-up. All the female leads are perfectly natural on camera, with Li andMoreno particular standouts, making the lack of resolution all the moreunsatisfying. Thaide invests his few scenes with amemorable characterisation, but once again hischaracter is left - literally - standing by the roadside.
Technical creditsare strong, with lingering shots of favela sunrisesjuxtaposed with late-night revelries and a naturalistic style which impresses -although English subtitles need serious some cleaning-up. The score - veeringfrom rap to Destiny's Child-style female empowerment anthems - are Antonia's major selling point.
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