Shortlisted for an Oscar, the Brazilian animated feature “Tito and the Birds” is a beautiful film, but its subject is ugly. With an animation style that resembles thick paint come to life, the story takes place in a dystopian future that has disturbing echoes of the present: As an opportunistic TV personality inflames people’s angst through on-air fearmongering about criminal hordes, a strange epidemic begins to sweep through the population, transforming people into paralyzed, stonelike lumps.
At the same time, this demagogue leverages the panic to promote home sales at his new housing development: a giant, snowglobe-like gated community called the “Domed Gardens.”
If the metaphor of xenophobia and nationalism is obvious — and it is, to the point of eye-rolling — the telling of the tale has a certain poetry. The titular hero of the fable is a 10-year-old boy who embarks, with two friends, on an adventure to find a cure for the fear virus in the song of street pigeons.
The precise mechanism of the cure is left intentionally vague by the screenwriters Eduardo Benaim and Gustavo Steinberg: Tito’s inventor father had been working on a machine that would somehow translate birdsong into — what? — healing energy, before he disappeared. Nevertheless, “Tito” puts forth a pretty enough idea, especially as rendered by directors Gabriel Bitar, André Catoto and Steinberg, whose goofy, almost sloppy animation style lends the admittedly bizarre circumstances of the fable a cockeyed charm.
“Tito” isn’t for the birds. It’s for anyone who needs, if only for an hour or so, to indulge in the fantasy that our increasingly polarized world might someday be repaired by nothing more than a bit of billing and cooing.
Unrated. At the AFI Silver. Contains some scary images and children in jeopardy. Most screenings will be dubbed in English; some will be in Portuguese with English subtitles. 73 minutes.