When we find the thing that we are passionate about, the thing that ignites a fire within our soul, we don’t let it out of our grasp because it becomes our life force. For Elis Regina, her entire being revolved around singing. Many outside of Brazil may know who Elis was, but thanks to Hugo Prata’s new film, ELIS, the world will soon become aware of this enigmatic singer.
The film follows the fascinating life of Elis Regina from her energetic rise in the 1964 to her tragic close in the 1982. ELIS (who is played with grace by Andreia Horta) plays as a hit record of moments in her life, highlighting the situations, struggles, and strengths that formed who she was as a person and as a singer. The film does a beautiful job in showing her determination to make it big, to be the singer she knows she can be, all the while showing Elis’ simpler side with her husbands and children.
The problem with showcasing such a faceted woman and career in film is that at times ELIS feels rushed. One moment we are watching her struggle to find the opportunity to be heard and in a flash we witness her perform during her weekly gigs at a club in Rio. It is hard to pack all the important moments in these films, and for those who are not aware of the person it works well as a Cliff’s Notes version.
I don’t mean that in any disrespect, but the one thing this film has that others don’t is not only a delicate version of a lifetime, but it also compliments the woman herself. To say Elis Regina was tenacious is a gross understatement. She knew what she wanted, what she deserved, and was not going to settle for anything else. The quickness of the film’s progression works with expressing just how straight-forward she was in her career.
You want to know the outcome before the act is even finished, and the audience doesn’t have to wait long to find how exactly it manifests. Witnessing Elis’ progression from thought to action to result transforms into inspiration through the film’s movement. It is a striking example that if you are passionate about something and put energy into following your dreams, it can and will come true. ELIS also doesn’t shy away from the personal moments that coexisted with her career, the brighter and darker moments, to demonstrate that everyone also needs a base as well as ambition.
These struggles were not unique to Elis, nor any other artist in other creative fields, but that doesn’t mean they were any less valid or important and distinctively hers. Prata and the writers, Luiz Bolognesi and Vera Egito, did an exceptional job in presenting a complicated life with an unbiased brush. As much as the film brings to light this beautiful singer, it also showed her dark side. Elis’ life ended before it was supposed to, and while the film explains how situations escalated to allow that to happen, it did not condone what the outcome was. There is a tragic understanding that the audience leaves with, which then turns into a desire to learn and hear everything this woman created.
Another topic that ELIS touched on with class, from an outsider’s perspective, is the political unrest that plagued Brazil at this time. Mention of the growing societal turmoil throughout Elis’ artistic growth enables the audience to be aware of the situation the whole time, waiting for the iron gate to come crashing down. This indeed does happen, and once again the intimacy between film and her life’s progression create a deeper emotional connection to it all.
The audience begins to realize just how important music and politics are to each other, that they not only inspire each other in their prominence, but the lack of interaction might have an even more devastating effect. American audiences are used to these connections, in our own history throughout the 60s, but in a way that just means it had become an over acknowledged point. When witnessed through a strife and artist we are unaware of, the power becomes all that more important. It not only takes us out of ourselves, but it opens up a new layer to the incredible woman Elis was.
Elis Regina, most certainly, was an important figure in Brazilian music and culture. Her infectious passion for music cascaded off the screen into the audience’s soul. She will no doubt gain new admirers, yet once again destroy her fans with her untimely passing. No matter how much her story is full of devotion for her craft and those around her, it still cumulates in heartbreak. The fires of creativity burned with a brilliant fire within Elis, and that proved too difficult to handle for the fierce woman she was.
I went into this film wanting to learn more about a splendid singer, and emerged with an inner desire to continue my path towards my own passion. I find myself searching for albums to include into my record collection, melodic melodies to unwind to when a need a guide through this chaotic world. Finally, I have new found respect for a talented woman named Elis Regina.
ELIS is currently available in limited theaters.
The film will be released on multiple VOD platforms on April 10th, followed by the special behind-the-scenes DVD release on May 8th.
Written by Lisa Mejia
Images provided by CLEOPATRA ENTERTAINMENT