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January 27, 2019

Slamdance 2019: Boni Bonita

boni bonita.jpg

Daniel Barosa - 2019

Boni Bonita follows the relationship between Beatriz and Rogerio over the course of nine years, from 2007 through 2016, in four chapters. The film is divided into periods of a day or two when they are together. Beatriz is first seen as a high school girl, reportedly expelled for being caught having sex with another student, and kicked out of her house. The heavy-set Rogerio is a rock musician who hasn't quite realized that his best days are behind him. Most of the film takes place in and around Rogerio's family home by a reservoir outside of Rio de Janeiro.

The relationship is not clearly defined for the viewer, by turns romantic, sexual, and even paternal on Rogerio's part. For most of the film, Daniel Barosa keeps the camera immobile and at a distance. Beatriz and Rogerio are usually framed in full, and sometimes from a distance, with their actions and dialogue quietly observed. There are no explanations or judgments regarding Beatriz' self-inflicted cuttings and cigarette burns. Meanwhile, Rogerio's fading celebrity is based less on his own musicianship than on being the grandson of a still revered singer from an earlier generation.

Barosa produced his film over the course of three years. Film formats used were 16mm, Super 16 and digital. The 16mm footage is full of scratches as if the film had been run through too many projectors with careless use. The aspect ratio changes from wide screen to square with some of the images around the reservoir, resembling postcard nature photography. The time difference is most visible with the last scene of Beatriz, actress Ailin Salas. Barosa has stated that his initial inspiration came from following the indie rock scene of Sao Paulo, Brazil, both as a young enthusiast and amateur musician, and than looking back over a decade later. Among stated cinematic influences are Eric Rohmer and John Cassavetes - what is most similar is the sometimes affectionate look at characters who are allowed to be impulsive and sometimes foolish in their choices and relationships.

I had forgotten that I had seen Ailin Salas previously. The Argentinian actress also appears in two early films by Lucia Puenzo, XXY and The Fish Child. Salas is like Beatriz, an Argentinian in Brazil. One might also equate the visual distance in the cinematography of Boni Bonita as that of the outsider or foreigner. Barosa own background is of having been born in Maryland, moving with his family to Brazil, and studying film in Argentina. A personal history as that would lend itself to a story about two people, one of whom is always at home, while for the other, home is something transient.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at January 27, 2019 08:13 AM