When we think about the current Brazilian TV scene, one thing is certain: young people are less and less contemplated by a dramaturgy made especially for them. Free-to-air TV stations give more signals that teenagers are not among their target audience when it comes to fiction. The closing of Workout by Globo, the teen soap opera that had been on Globo’s grid for 26 years, helps to reiterate this feeling.
Does it mean that young people are no longer interested in watching “story stories” about people their own age? Not exactly. Perhaps what can be speculated is that Brazilian teenagers may be tired of following the lives of characters far removed from their reality. The success of Brazilian production tuning, available on Netflix, is proof of that.
tuning is a series created and directed by the entrepreneur KondZilla. This is the artistic name of Konrad Dantas, a São Paulo native who built a real empire within Brazilian popular culture based on a genre that many people (especially the older ones) view with prejudice: funk. This empire built by him includes several ventures – among them, a production company, a huge YouTube channel and the record label KondZilla Records.
Producer KondZilla alongside the protagonists of Tuning.Fonte: Netflix
tuning, therefore, is KondZilla’s arm within fiction. And the series lives up to the proposal that Konrad Dantas in its production company, as he said in an interview with the newspaper Newspaper, is to see the favela as a fuel capable of moving the entertainment industry. In practice, this means that tuning part of KondZilla’s public universe (the thousands of teenagers and young people spread across Brazil, immersed in a country drowned by inequality, and who have funk among the few chances of social ascension) to tell the story of three protagonists – all of them very distant of middle-class characters present in most seasons of Workout.
The series takes place in a favela in São Paulo, and follows the journey of three friends. Doni (lived by MC Jottapê) looks like playboy between partners: he struggles to conquer a space within ostentation funk, while he has to deal with competition with artists already consolidated in their own milieu and the lack of support from his parents, who insist that he focus on his studies. Rita (Bruna Mascarenhas) is an orphan girl who, after putting her best friend in a robbery, decides to seek some shelter in the evangelical church her mother attended. The hardest side of the “broken” focuses on the story of the third protagonist, Nando (Christian Malheiros). The father of a small girl, he ends up seeing the best opportunity he has to move up in life in drug trafficking.
In the character Rita, there is an important discussion about the presence of the church in the suburbs.Fonte: Netflix
the script of tuning it is based on a colorful, pulsating, yet raw aesthetic – it is not intended to “adorn” poverty in any aspect, but it is undeniable that there is a living beauty in the musical environment that the friends inhabit. Recorded in the Jaguaré favela, in São Paulo, the series also makes no effort to convey moralistic messages about the topics covered. The effort seems to be much more to present a reality based on the logic of peripheral youths. It is commendable, for example, that the series’ approach to the evangelical universe is not covered by obvious criticism. Although Rita has her reservations about the microcosm that she starts to attend (especially with regard to the “capitalization” of the faithful by larger churches), the narrative clarifies that the small temple to which she joins has a very important function in that community.
Focus on human relationships
Another important element of tuning it is a discussion of how the relationships held between all those subjects are often overwhelmed by the scarcity that surrounds their lives. I especially highlight the role of parents who try (sometimes in crooked ways) to protect their children in what they understand to be a reality full of threats. Doni’s parents, as I said, cannot understand how opting for the funk path can be better than the “normal” path of a grocery store owner, which is the project they dream for their son.
There are also other cores with less space in tuning, but equally interesting. One of the most memorable plots in the first season is that of Rita with her best friend Cacau (Danielle Olímpia). Both found themselves selling trinkets at a subway station. After causing her friend’s arrest, Rita has to deal with the wrath of her mother, Jussara (played by Rosana Maris, in an excellent performance), who wants to stop their friendship and categorizes her as bad company. The clash between the two takes place through a “duel” of influences – at one point, to threaten Rita, Jussara said that she also has contact with bandits.
The idea of protection is also repeated in Nando’s plot. He has the responsibilities of a family man, for which he is evidently not prepared, as does his young wife. Within a reality in which the main references of power are the drug dealers, Nando is looking for a way to succeed in “banditry”, even though he is constantly looking for some ethics to justify what he does – such as, for example, when he needs make decisions about what to do with dishonest peers.
I also highlight the wonderful polyphony present in tuning. Many reviews circulating about the series mention the fact that the actors use language that may seem “encrypted” to some viewers. There are those who even say that they do not understand their lines. I think that the use of this feature in the script – that the characters speak the “language” of the favela, with a lot of slang, often not “translated” for the public – is a point that once again marks the objective of this project by KondZilla. As he explains: it’s a way for the favela to occupy places that, over the years, didn’t belong to them. Language, for this very reason, works as an occupation resource.
Available on Netflix, tuning is a great choice for all young people not represented by Workout – and for the not so young.
Maura Martins is a journalist, professor and editor of the cultural journalism portal Escotilha. At TecMundo, he is a columnist in the Minha Série and Cultura Geek sections.