Tata Amaral’s hip-hop drama Antonia draws much of its appeal from this idea, but does more than retell audiences the familiar story of some dreamers’ rough road towards success with a few tweaks thrown in.
Traversing the Rough Road of Antonia
Every now and then news from the rumour mill about some celebrity or other who’s gotten involved in a crime of some sort or is dealing with an addiction of some kind –sex, drugs, alcohol- reaches and spreads throughout popular media. The world of celebrities and musicians seem to be laden with struggles against vices and battles with one’s inner demons. Yet somehow, someway, all the conflict that these popular figures go through endears them to a number of people all the more. Those who rise against their problems become inspirations for some, while those who succumb to them become portraits of a tragedy for others. Tata Amaral’s hip-hop drama Antonia draws much of its appeal from this idea, but does more than retell audiences the familiar story of some dreamers’ rough road towards success with a few tweaks thrown in: the film examines the sexual and cultural oppression found in a markedly masculine world, all with a decidedly female eye, as well.
Set in Vila Brasilândia in São Paulo, the film follows the lives of four young women brought together by a mutual passion for sound: Barbarah (Leilah Moreno), Preta (Negra Li), Maya (Jacqueline Simao), and Lena (Cindy Mendes). Bursting with musical talent but never given the proper opportunities to make use of them, the quartet decide to band together under the name Antonia and perform music all their own, leaving behind a resigned world of playing second voice for male performers. Though initially met by derision and antagonism from onlookers, Antonia soon catches the eye of the well-meaning Marcelo Diamante (Thaíde), who eventually acts as their manager and nets them gigs. The girls soon discover, though, that behind the apparent glitz and glamour of life on stage, there hides a darker side of fame, and later their personal baggage becomes too burdensome and takes its toll, as well.
Jealousy causes rifts in the group as Preta’s strained family life causes conflicts between her and Maya; and Lena gets pregnant and is barred from performing by a possessive boyfriend. Perhaps the most poignant of issues, however, is Barbarah’s relationship with her gay brother Duda (Chico Santo). Conflicts with Robinho (Ezequiel da Silva) lead Barbarah to violence and eventual incarceration. All in all, it’s a tale that keeps itself from being overly-optimistic as movies of their ilk tend to be, by grounding the plot with a sense of realism and by presenting audiences a world that doesn’t seem too fabricated.
At times, the camerawork lends the film a feel akin to that of a band documentary, and makes scenes which feature Antonia performing –or those in which the characters are particularly impassioned- look more genuine and raw.
Indeed, while the cast members are more of musicians than thespians, their acting abilities prove to be none too shabby; and having a cast that consists mostly of fairly accomplished singers certainly heightens the impact of all the musical numbers the film has to offer –original compositions and covers alike- and such scenes are among those that are bound to leave a lasting impression on viewers.