A while back my wife dumped a whole bunch of South American films onto our shared watch list. This one, a Brazilian film by director Breno Silveira, should be the last of them. To be truthful, I wasn’t terribly enthusiastic about watching this after a string of films that focused on the poverty of the peasants in South America. They may be great, but it gets a bit much sometimes. As it turned out I needn’t have worried for while this film has its share of misery, its really all about the music.
In the 1960s, Francisco is a farm laborer who is married to Helena and has many children with her. Despite his lowly background, he has a great love of music and dreams of two of his children forming a musical duo. He focuses on the two eldest boys, Mirosmar and Emival, spending money that he can’t afford on buying instruments for them and insisting that they train their voices as well. Their skills slowly improve and they perform in local fairs but when the family is evicted from their land, Francisco decides to take them to the city to search for better opportunities for the boys. Life there is hard for the whole family and Francisco struggles to put enough food on the table. One day while performing at the bus station for tips, the duo runs into a man who claims to be a promoter and wants to take them away on tour. It soon becomes clear that the man is only exploiting them for his own gain and yet try as he might Francisco fails to find better gigs for them on his own. On one such tour, the worst happens as they meet with a car accident and Emival dies, leading the family to question the futility of Francisco’s dreams.
I didn’t realize at first that this was based on the real story of the musical duo Zezé Di Camargo and Luciano. This certainly explains why the plot has some surprising twists that you wouldn’t expect in a film in this genre about a musical duo who achieve success only after a long and hard road. This was a pretty big hit in Brazil, so as a mainstream film it’s not surprising that despite the multiple tragedies that the family goes through, the overall tone is fairly uplifting. It’s impossible to hate a film that has children performing good music and while I’m not a good judge of this, the film looks like an impressive showcase for Brazilian country music. The child actors in particular do a fine job and there aren’t any mistakes. The family goes through enough hardship that you feel that their eventual success is hard earned and well deserved so there isn’t that saccharine sweetness that we see in other feel-good films either.
Given the nature of this film, it’s not exactly brimming with original insights so there’s little to write about it. It’s competently made, entertaining, it sheds light on a part of Brazilian culture that probably few people outside of the country have any knowledge of and it avoids being dumb. That’s enough to earn it a recommendation in my book.