Rio 2096

It's reasonably unusual these days to see an animated feature film that is primarily aimed at adult audiences, so kudos to former Brazilian journalist and screenwriter Luiz Bolognesi for stepping into that particular breach with Uma História de Amor e Fúria - retitled internationally as Rio 2096 probably to highlight the "exoticism" of a feature animation from Brazil meant for grown-ups instead of kids.

     Mr. Bolognesi's script highlights the idea of Brazil as a country that has always been stuck between a rock and a high place, between the desire for self-determination of its people and the submission to outside influences and power. Shifting between fantasy and reality, the tale is seen through the eyes of 16th century native warrior Abeguar (voiced by Selton Mello); we first meet him attempting to lead his tribe against the treacherous ways of the colonists who manipulate the "heathens" for their own ends. Abeguar's failure leads him to lose everything and dooms him to walk his tribe's native grounds for eternity, searching for the next opportunity to try and push back the wave of evil - the native grounds being what would become the city of Rio de Janeiro.

     The film follows Abeguar's "rebirth" in three different eras of Brazilian history, always pushed into action by the "reincarnation" of his late wife Janaína (Camila Pitanga) and siding with the popular Davids against the ruling Goliath: as a 19th century farmer fighting the injustice of slavery, as a 20th century student fighting the military dictatorship, and in a future world against capitalist control of the water supply. As Mr. Bolognesi is a writer by trade, little wonder it's in the scripting that Rio 2096 stands out, despite the somewhat didactic aspects of the tale and the sense that the film could be "chopped up" into episodes; there is a clear ambition of creating a specifically Brazilian tale that can resonate globally in our days.

     However, the animation doesn't really soar, its general trait and movement too close to standard television work, competent and functional rather than inspired. There is a definitive effort from co-directors Jean de Moura, Marcelo de Moura and Bruno Monteiro to differentiate the specific eras through texture and line, as well as a very clear influence from someone like Frank Miller in the stylization of the violence. But despite the technical proficiency, the look of Rio 2096 is too "international" and not distinctive enough to set it apart; look at the superb closing credits sequence as a suggestion of how the film could have been a lot more striking and match its ambitions. As it is, Rio 2096 is a step above the mere curio, best seen as a first effort that can and will be improved on.

Brazil 2012
75 minutes
 Voice cast Selton Mello, Camila Pitanga, Rodrigo Santoro
 Director and screenwriter Luiz Bolognesi; co-directors Jean de Moura and Marcelo de Moura; animation director Bruno Monteiro; additional script material by André Moreira Forni, Anna Caiado, Mr. Monteiro, Camilla Loyolla, Marcos Cesana, Paulo Crumbim and Sílvia Lourenço; composers Rica Amabis, Tejo Damasceno and Pupillo; art director Ms. Caiado; film editor Helena Maura; producers Caio Gullane, Fabiano Gullane, Laís Bodanzky, Mr. Bolognesi, Marcos Barreto, Débora Ivanov and Gabriel Lacerda; production companies Buriti Filmes and Gullane Entretenimento in co-production with Europa Filmes, Lightstar Studios, Mondo Cane Filmes, Estúdio Luno, HBO and Tele Image
 Screened February 17th 2015, Lisbon


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