Prime Time Soap

"A Novela das 8," a 2012 Seattle International Film Festival from Brazil (English captions) was a disappointment in several ways. We knew we would see an interconnected story that links a maid, a prostitute, a diplomat, a revolutionary and a gay teenager, but for some reason, when I read that Dancin' Days, a disco-themed soap opera on television would be an underlying leitmotif, I expected a comedy.

We start in Sao Paulo, 1978, with the prostitute and her maid, but after a client dies, they quickly hop into a Volkswagen and head out for Rio de Janeiro. As things escalate we become aware of the military dictatorship that has the country in a stranglehold and what some of the citizens are doing about it. In addition, we watch a man receive his father's ashes from a mortuary and we see a teenager who is at odds with his father because Papa "hates fags."

Some things stood out:
  • Throughout this film, Director Odilon Rocha made extremely clever use of mirrors.
  • Excellent performances, particularly Vanessa Gi├ícomo as the prostitute, and Claudia Ohana as the maid.
  • The worst captions I've ever seen (and I watch telenovelas!). The contrast is consistently poor, so the captions are almost unread- able.
  • It's funny when the diplomat dumps his father's ashes on the teenager who is sunbathing on the beach below.
  • Watching an actor or actress transform from one persona to another is always satisfying. Watch the prostitute and the maid.
The captioning fiasco really detracted from this melodrama that features political dealings, romance, police brutality and family issues. I wish I hadn't been so frustrated.