10 Aug 2019

Sintonia Review: Netflix’s New Teen Drama Provides A Snapshot Of An Underrepresented Culture

Netflix loves a coming-of-age story. Even its flagship show, Stranger Things, is more about growing up than it is about interdimensional monsters or 80s nostalgia. The platform’s recent international exports have often dabbled in the subgenre too, including the recent (quite good) Indian teen-horror series Typewriter. The latest is Sintonia, a Brazilian teen drama produced by Netflix and Losbragas, focusing on three local teens from the same favela in São Paulo.

Doni (M.C. Jottapê), Nando (Christian Malheiros) and Rita (Bruna Mascarenhas) are all from the same nexus of poverty, drama, and crime; they find the same escapes in family and music and religion and teenage rebellion. There’s nothing all that unusual about them, in genre terms, but their surroundings provide a snapshot of an underrepresented culture.

Screenwriter and director Konrad Dantes has provided in Sintonia a case study in culture; how the norms and expectations can feel stifling and hostile, and how relationships are forged in — and sometimes despite — environments where little else prospers. The camera wants to take in the scope and scale of Brazil’s impoverished underclass, highlighting how closely those who have nothing rub up against those who have too much. The expansiveness of the setting makes it feel more claustrophobic; all that space, and nowhere to hide.

With Sintonia Netflix is delivering familiar material with an unfamiliar slant; once again finding the universality in theme amid the specificity of setting. Growing up is hard everywhere in the world, but it’s harder in some places than others. We often don’t think about that; we’re so wrapped up in our problems that we can’t see how privileged we are to have them in a place where the resources and support exist to help us deal with them. Not that life is a contest — but life is also not equally fair and just, and most importantly of all, it is not the same for everyone. It’s lived everywhere, in many ways, and for many reasons. Sintonia is the kind of show that helps remind you how everything is the same, but also how everything is different. Sintonia Episode 1 “They Caught Cacau”

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