Film Review by Kam Williams
Headline: Barrio Provides Backdrop for Female Hip-Hop Group in Brazilian Saga of Survival
What hath hip-hop wrought? There is an emerging trend worthy of note in foreign films, namely, movies featuring wannabe rappers. For instance, Ghosts of Cite Soleil, a documentary shot in Haiti, revolved around the efforts to rap their way of that country’s worst slums.
And although Antonia is fictional and set in Brazil, it shares the same motif and arrives heavily-laden with a music video sensibility. It might be a bit early to place these and similar other endeavors together in a genre comprised of international imitators, but America obviously is doing a decent job of exporting the celebrated aspects of ghetto culture and thereby causing an explosion of wannabes elsewhere.
In this instance, we find four black babes from the barrio in Sao Paulo fed up with singing back-up for a male rap group. So, they form their own all-girl band called Antonia in order to perform a Brazilian brand of music combining elements of pop, soul and rap. Despite the best efforts of the producer (Thaide) who discovers them and puts them on the banana circuit, their personal lives remain enough of a mess to prevent them from making it over the top.
Whether it’s Barbarah’s (Leilah Moreno) exacting a measure of revenge on the gay basher who murdered her brother’s boyfriend, jealous Preta (Negra Li) opting to raise her daughter by herself because of her suspicions that Maya (Jacqueline Simao) might be after her emotionally-distant husband, or pregnant Lena (Cindy Mendes) dealing with pressure from her baby-daddy to have an abortion, everybody has issues.
Curiously, the lead actresses here are ostensibly actual aspiring hip-hop artists who perform their own tunes, and they appear to be demonstrably more capable in the former capacity than in the latter. While their rendition of Killing Me Softly won’t make you forget either the Roberta Flack original or the Lauryn Hill remake with The Fugees, they’re at least able to hold their own and not come off as rank amateurs.
Still, Antonia is rather weird for an overcoming-the-odds flick in that the four newcomers cast in the starring roles are obviously attempting to achieve in real-life what the characters they’re portraying are trying to do in the saga on screen. It all adds up to an entertaining adventure, but please don’t quit your day jobs, ladies.
Very good (3 stars)
Rated PG-13 for profanity, violence and mature themes.
In Portuguese with English subtitles.
Running time: 90 minutes
Studio: Anywhere Road Entertainment