Rio 2096: A Story of Love and Fury: Film Review

Striking visuals and potent political themes enhance this animated epic that is definitely not for children.

This Oscar-contending animated film examines Brazilian history through the ages through an Indian warrior's battles against the forces of oppression.

The violence-ridden history of Brazil both past and future is vividly depicted to imaginative effect in Luiz Bolgonesi’s politically tinged animated film Rio 2096: A Story of Love and Fury. With its generous doses of violence and nudity, not to mention its complicated narrative, the Oscar contending film is definitely not for children. But its striking visuals and provocative themes will prove amply rewarding for more adventurous adult audiences.

The story is narrated by its 600-year-old hero, an Indian warrior named Abeguar (Selton Mello), who when first seen in a futuristic landscape informs us that “To live without knowing the past is to walk in the dark.” It then flashes back to 1566, when Abeguar is seen hunting a jaguar. He’s soon joined by the scantily clad Janaina (Camila Pitanga), with the two eventually making a desperate escape from the charging animal by jumping off a massive cliff. A shaman informs Abeguar that his survival means that he has been divinely chosen to lead his people against evil, personified by a shape-shifting demon dubbed Anhanga.

When Abeguar dies after helping lead the fight against the brutal Portuguese settlers who have colonized the region, he is transformed into a bird. As the film proceeds to depict several turbulent historical periods in what eventually becomes Rio de Janeiro, his relationship with Janaina continues even as they each take on different forms.

We see them reincarnated during the slave rebellions of the 1800s; the 1968 student rebellion against the military dictatorship; and eventually the year 2096, when Rio has been transformed into a class-ridden futuristic society run by militias who control the city’s dwindling water supply.

While the subtitled film may prove more than a little confusing for those not intimately familiar with the details of Brazilian history, it nonetheless packs a visceral impact in its emotion-charged depiction of the couple’s enduring love as they battle, not always successfully, the forces that oppress their people.

Combining computer and hand-drawn animation to excellent effect, Rio 2096: A Story of Love and Fury is uncommonly sophisticated in its themes and execution. A rare example of an animated film designed to advance political ideas, its message goes down easily thanks its potent doses of colorful mythology.

Opens: Friday, Nov. 22 (Gullane Entretenimento SA)

Cast: Selton Mello, Camila Patanga, Rodrigo Santoro

Director/screenwriter: Luiz Bolognesi

Producers: Laiz Bodanzky, Luiz Bolognesi, Debora Ivanov, Gabriel Lacerda

Executive producers: Caio Gullane, Fabiano Gullane, Sonia Imperio Hamburger

Editor: Helena Maura

Composers: Rica Amabis, Tejo Damasceno, Pupillo

Not rated, 75 min.