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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
The year in which Cão Hamburger went to Bom Retiro and found Brazil
O ano em que meus pais sairam de férias is Cão Hamburger's rather spectacular debút into the area of feature-length films for adult audiences.
Set mostly in the São Paulo neighborhood of Bom Retiro during the 1970 World Cup (and also, not coincidentally, during the "Iron Years" of the last Brazilian military dictatorship), the film tells the story of Mauro (Michel Joelsas), a boy from the state of Minas Gerais who is dropped off in front of the São Paulo apartment of his Jewish grandfather when his parents are forced to hide from the political police. When Mauro arrives, he finds that his grandfather has recently passed away and Mauro is left virtually alone as he waits out his parents' "vacation". In the process, the boy forms an alternative family consisting of the orthodox Jewish immigrant community of his grandfather, a group of neighborhood children including Hanna (spectacularly played by Daniela Piepszyk) and the attractive anarchist Ítalo (Caio Blat). Bom Retiro also discovers Mauro: this son of political activists is Jewish only in heritage and is much more interested in football than anything else.
Indeed, in Hamburger's world, football is the one uniting aspect of Brazilian society. From the apolitical orthodox rabbis to the black goalie on the Jewish football team to the Italians to the anti-dictatorship guerrillas, the one thing that unites everyone is the game. In a São Paulo that is usually defined by its immigrants and work ethic, everything stops for World Cup games and neighborhood matches. In this way, the film is not so much the story of youth in the dictatorship (as is the case with the Chilean Machuca and the Argentine Kamchatka) but rather a story set in that time and a circumstance created by the dictatorship. Instead, it is Hamburger's attempt to describe Brazilian society through the lens of what is, on the surface, the most unusual of Brazilian settings: one of the Jewish neighborhoods of São Paulo. In this world, people of many races, ethnicities and religions mix, united by football even as they are divided by culture. Another factor that unites them is that nearly all of the characters are not particularly tied to politics or concerned with the dictatorship. Indeed, like most people across classes, these characters are much more concerned with providing for their families and even improving their situations. Fighting the political situation becomes a sort of fringe activity that is the "luxury" of youths like Ítalo and ultimately the folly of "responsible adults" like Mauro's parents. It is not that Hamburger advocates this stance but rather that he sees the historical truth that few actively fought against the dictatorship while the great majority silently tried to ignore ituntil it invaded their own lives. As such, the film is a quiet tragedy.
Visually, the film is quite lovely thanks to the cinematography of Adriano Goldman. Shot mostly with small hand-held cameras in close quarters, the film has an intimacy and silence that is intense without being cheesy. Lit in tones of blues and greens and seamlessly edited by Daniel Rezende (Motorcycle Diaries, City of God), it is almost surprisingly well-made for such a "small" film. Finally, it is worth noting that Hamburger did an excellent job casting and working with the youthful and largely inexperienced actors.
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