Even if Luzinete writer/director Carla Di Bonito had not openly acknowledged the intensely personal story contained within her short film, it would have been obvious within moments that this riveting, deeply engaging work carried with it an uncommon intimacy and soulful connection.
Luzinete feels personal because Luzinete is personal.
Luzinete tells the true story of Di Bonito's sister, whose death due to a cocaine overdose two decades ago serves as the foundation for the film yet also serves as the foundation for Di Bonito's desire to paint a fuller story of her sister. Luzinete, or Nete (Fernanda Peviani), is a vibrant woman living in Salvador, Brazil. She is a single mother to Raphael (Milo Santos) and a woman who has long struggled with drug abuse and recently been diagnosed with HIV.
I identified greatly with Luzinete having only recently lost my younger brother. While my brother's death was due to pancreatic cancer, it was a cancer that developed after years of drug abuse, self-abuse, and incredibly poor choices. He was, at least to me, a good kid who did bad things. To much of the world, he was a loser - a drug abuser, a lousy parent, a likable but questionable spouse, and someone who regularly depended on everyone else.
We both grew up in a complex, questionable home.
We turned out two entirely different ways.
The same is true for Luzinete, whose likability is brought vividly to life by the marvelous Fernanda Peviani. Despite her poor choices, this is not someone we ever hate.
It's a pity that such a vibrant woman's ended so dreadfully. Despite the intense personalization of this film, Di Bonito doesn't shy away from that ugliness. It's just obvious in every frame that she wants us to remember more than just the ugliness.
Luzinete is Di Bonito's graduate film and it displays a promising filmmaking future for this Brazilian filmmaker who wonderfully balances personal storytelling with the craft of filmmaking. While Luzinete feels personal, it never crosses the line into being self-serving. The film's ensemble cast is uniformly strong, though there's little denying that this is Peviani's film and she makes the most of it.
Martina Errica's lensing is uncomfortable and jarring, simultaneously intimate yet also invasive. Errica manages to capture Nete's undeniable charisma yet also those vices that would ultimately lead to her death.
Luzinete isn't what I'd call an entertaining film because we shouldn't be entertained by this story. Luzinete is, however, an engaging and compelling film that gives a full-on perspective of a woman whose story is worth telling. While it had to have been difficult, Di Bonito was most certainly the right one to tell it. Behind a strong ensemble cast and Di Bonito's clear-eyed storytelling, Luzinete is fiercely intelligent, compassionate, and honest storytelling.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic