As riveting as a true-life telenovela, the Brazilian "Teen Mothers" is an engaging, thought-provoking investigative doc that stirs up compassion along with shock. Sandra Werneck ("Possible Loves") and co-director Gisela Camara keep a surprisingly neutral focus as they follow three childlike girls from Rio's favelas, aged 13 to 15, through their pregnancies and into premature motherhood. There is no morality lesson, though viewers will inevitably be drawn into the girls' plight and that of their poverty-stricken families. Small screen outlets should take a look.
The three protags are surprisingly laid-back about expecting. Luana, 15, has helped her single mom raise her younger sisters and now wants a child of her own. The father of 13-year-old Evelin's baby has recently stopped packing a gun and working for drug dealers. Edilene, 14, has to share the father of her child with Joice, another girl he has gotten pregnant; complicating things further, her mother is also expecting a baby. The girls are winningly open, and offer a tough but illuminating glimpse into ghetto life. Followed through delivery into the early days of motherhood, they remain upbeat despite the hardships they face.
Camera (color, DV-to-35mm), Fred Rocha, Heloisa Passos; editor, Fernanda Rondon; music, Ze Miguel Wisnik, Paulo Neves. Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (Panorama), Feb. 16, 2006. Running time: 71 MIN.