‘Love Film Festival’: Rio de Janeiro Review

Courtesy of Republica Pureza Filmes
Appealingly frothy, straightforward and superficial

A love affair spanning four years, four fests and four directors

At one point in Love Film Festival, an actress apologizes for a filmmaker’s absence from a film festival because she’s writing a soap opera in Brazil. That soap opera might itself be Love Film Festival. A light, undemanding romantic fantasy aimed at people, perhaps sub-30 dreamers, who are under the impression that film festivals are indeed fit places for romance, the film is breezy, light and false and, probable Latin American sales apart, seems tailor-made for festivals' lighter sides.

The film was shot over four years, using different directors but the same acting tandem: Boyhood beware. The first section is directed by Vinicius Coimbra. On a rainy night at a short films festival in Portugal, scriptwriter Luzia (Brazilian Leandra Leal) and director Adrian (Colombian Manolo Cardona) come together. Against a background of images which might have been taken from the tourist board website, they fall in love. She likes his film and she doesn’t like his, but no matter: before too long, they’re kissing at an airport (complete with the requisite circle dolly shot).

A year later, Luzia and Adrian meet in Rio (director: Bruno Safadi), and things are suddenly not so idyllic, since both now have partners., A lot is going on between the festivals of Love Film that we don’t get to see. But what we do get to see is dancing in the streets and a feijoada (Brazil’s national dish) being served. The film is often sappy when the characters are happy and best when they’re angry, and this section ends with a bitter exchange between Luzia and her new boyfriend Dru (Eduardo Moscovis) that really does feel like spontaneously-shot documentary.

The third section (director: Cardona’s brother Juancho) is Colombia-set, and in need of some serious editing. Luzia has made a film about her relationship with Adrian, angering him. Enter the actress who plays Luzia in the film, Camila (Nanda Costa). A nice note of film-about-film is thus introduced: it’s deja vu, but at least it gives the film something new to do. Both Luzia and Adrian are more famous now, and the footage of Cardona, a star in Colombia, enjoying the red-carpet screams is presumably authentic. And so onto the fourth section (Manuela Dias whose project this largely is), set in Chicago.

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Love Film Festival is selling itself as a documentary about fictional characters, but the documentary is all about the style, with hand-held cameras following the characters everywhere they go to suggest authenticity where there's really very little in observational terms. It’s not about the story or the characters, both directly off the peg.

The concept opens up intriguing possibilities: Love Dog Show, for example, or Love Industrial Technology Exhibition. Either of these would have as much to say about film making as Love Film Festival, which it’s clear right from the outset is 90% about love, and 10% about film, though something of the fleeting, superficial nature of festival circuit is captured. But that’s fine. It’s also fine that the characters often don’t talk the way real people do, but the way people imagine that film people might talk, or that we’ve seen their issues and problems a thousand times before. Given these limitations, the performances are also fine, especially Leal, bouncy, committed and nuanced in a way that the limited-register Cardona can’t replicate.

The choice of songs is tops, even though they they do tend to pop up rather randomly. Best of all is a cheese-topped Paul Anka swing version of Van Halen’s Jump. And then suddenly, like a soap bubble bursting, Love Film Festival is gone, ending with a terrific final line of dialogue which is meaningless, but somehow just fine.

Production company: Red Desert Films, Republica Pureza Filmes, Marina Filmes, Teleimage, 11:11 Filmes
Cast: Leandra Leal, Manolo Cardona, Nanda Costa, Eduardo Moscovis
Directors: Vinicius Coimbra, Bruno Safadi, Juancho Cardona, Manuela Dias
Screenwriter: Manuela Dias
Producers: Manuela Dias, Marcello Ludwig Maia
Executive producers: Alex Garcia, Roberto Vitorino
Director of photography: Pablo Baiao
Production designer: Moa Batsow
Editor: Gustavo Giani, Manuela Dias
Composers: Bid, Rodrigo Penna
Sales: Republica Pureza Filmes

No rating
96 minutes