There's a genuine sweetness and warmth radiating from Angolan director Maria Esperança "Pocas" Pascoal's debut feature. But that sweetness and that warmth aren't enough to make Por Aqui Tudo Bem into an accomplished film, despite the obvious sincerity and personal investment of Ms. Pascoal in a story inspired by the true-life experiences of many Angolan émigrés to Portugal and, to an extent, of her own and her sister's. The film follows the travails of Angolan sisters Alda (Ciomara Morais) and Maria (Cheila Lima), sent to Lisbon in 1980 ahead of her mother to escape the civil war then raging in their native country, but left to fend for themselves in the impoverished suburbs when she is unable to join them. In Ms. Pascoal's telling, their worst enemies are their own countrymen, from the teenage drug dealer (Willion Brandão) who tries to seduce Maria to the initially kind dressmaker (Vera Cruz) who turns out to resent them for surviving the war when her own son didn't.

     Por Aqui Tudo Bem is visually non-descript, with a few moments of flair let down by dull cinematography, and the plot never rises above a well-trod litany of melodramatic episodes indistinctly scripted. But the natural performances from Mss. Morais and Lima and the dry, matter-of-fact way in which the events unfold (with no musical accompaniment to give the game away) turn out to make the film into an amiable, if flawed enterprise. Personal though it may be - and it's very clear that this was a labour of love for its makers - Por Aqui Tudo Bem brings nothing new to the well-meaning social problem picture.

Ciomara Morais, Cheila Lima; Willion Brandão, José Carlos Cardoso, Vera Cruz; Catarina Avelar.
     Director, Pocas Pascoal; screenplay, Ms. Pascoal, Marc Pernet; cinematography, Octávio Espírito Santo (colour); music, Lulendu Mvulo, Mr. Pernet, Éric Lonni; art director, Fernanda Morais; costumes, Rute Correia; editor, Pascale Chavance; producer, Luís Correia (LX Filmes in associate production with Omboko), Portugal/France, 2011, 94 minutes.
     Screened: IndieLisboa 2012 advance screener, Lisbon, April 8th 2012. 


Popular Posts