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In 1970, near the World Cup, Daniel Stern and his wife Miriam leaves Belo Horizonte in a hurry and scared with their ten years old son Mauro in their Volkswagen. While traveling to São Paulo, the couple explains Mauro that they will travel on vacation and will leave Mauro with his grandfather Mótel. Daniel promises to return before the first game of the Brazilian National Soccer Team in the Cup. The boy is left in Bom Retiro, a Jewish and Italian neighborhood, and waits for Mótel in front of his apartment. When the next door neighbor Shlomo arrives, he tells the boy that Mótel had just had a heart attack and died. Alone and without knowing where his parents are, the boy is lodged by Shlomo and the Jewish community. Through the young neighbor Hanna, Mauro makes new friends, cheers for the Brazilian team and sees the movement of the police and militaries on the streets while waiting for his parents. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Seldom does a film capture the essence of a period without sacrificing its soul. Hollywood works wonders with its budgets to recreate a long gone era, but most of those production offer empty shells, without much to care for. True, at their best, they carry a single emotion forward, and when its loud most of notice, but we leave without much emotional investment. This film stays inside your heart because it reaches deep with its message, with the purity of its storytelling, and most importantly with the powerful and yet quiet delivery of the its main performers.
Here there are no breathtaking special effects, but we keep catching our breath, as we follow the tale of a boy who must soon realize his life will never be the same. Pivotal events occur right before he must enter the traumatic stage of adolescence. There is still much wonder in his spirit, and his innocence is still pretty much in effect, as he captures the hearts and sympathy of people who barely know him. He is not a precocious youngster, only one who suddenly faces a crisis that he is not able to truly understand.
Eventually, as the film reaches its climax, his use of language demonstrates he has grown up. His silences represent a new understanding. Yet as he leaves us, we know he will always recall this special time in his life with much affection and wonder, and those qualities are so vivid throughout the movie that it is hard to dismiss this film as just another children's movie. It is heavily dependent on the very good work of two young performers, but it is ahaded with political references, with nostalgic touches of long gone eras, so we are enveloped by those powerful emotions, and yet, we know that what we are witnessing is part of our fabric and they will eventually recycle to create more stories like these. It is a very personal movie, one that should be commended by its ability to provide us with an exquisite sense of detail, with careful appreciation of the cultural forces that make a community, and the common bounds that we have in our different communities.
This just happens to be Brazil, a world that is always vibrant and admired by its contributions to world culture, a country long associated with soccer, that is now showing another facet of its multicultural fabric: a Jewish community. However, this is just another sweet element in the mix, one that serves as the background of a world that is ever changing, a world pulled apart by forces, and yet with an ability to heal and grow.
Mauro is not an observant, but he is a witness to turmoil that he doesn't understand. He is consistent and determined, never giving up on the hope he will see his parents again. There is no heartbreak, but we see how he at times needs to release his frustration and pain. There are no emotional fireworks, but great displays of how strong a common event can cross borders and ethnic differences, and for a while unite us all. Mauro shows us how a child thinks and behaves, how he is forced to understand and grow, even when he is not really ready, yet.
The movie is delicate, never loud, never too obvious in its delivery. The direction is subtle and masterful, never yelling at us, and never showing us demonic portrayals to show us the evil that exists in our world. Here is a director that can makes us appreciate the sense of loss, the beauty of transformation and growth, the agony of hopelessness, and a myriad of feelings that few movies in Hollywood can ever do.
Only one question remains: Why was this film ignored and not included in the Foreign film category? It is released early in this year, on its way to be a forgotten jewel in the world of cinema, with no chance at recognition much later because inexplicable oversight and bias is now delivering a message that unless not so subtle advertising and careful placement in the last three months of the year, a film is not worth the recognition it would otherwise deserve. It is time that the agency that so call recognizes quality in the art of cinema revamps a system that is now going stale and is truly disappointing those of us who really love good movies whenever they arrive and whatever genre and origin they might be. This film is indeed a sweet vacation from a very crowded and loud world.
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