Year My Parents Went on Vacation, The

(O Ano em Que Meus Pais Sair de Feria)
Brazil

The Brazilian entry for this year's Best Foreign-Language Film Oscar, Cao Hamburger's “The Year My Parents Went on Vacation” is a serio-comic coming of age saga about a boy who's forced to encounter the “alien” Jewish community when his parents flee the country for political reasons.

World-premiering at the 2007 Berlin Film Festival (in competition), and traveling the global festival circuit, including the 2008 Palm orings Film Fest, “Year My Parents” arrives with the pedigree of the same production team that brought Fernando Mereilles' acclaimed “City of God” and “The Constant Gardener,” though the new picture is done in a different style, representing a respite from the “favela dramas” of recent Brazilian cinema.

Judging from his first two efforts, director Hamburger likes stories of change that involve young protags. His first film, “Castelo Ra-Tim-Bum, the Movie,” derived from his TV children's programs. In this sophomore, more ambitious, effort, set against the 1970 soccer championship, he centers on a youth who's initially nave, unaware of the broader political context, the repressive dictatorship.

In 1970, Brazil and the world seemed to have been turned upside-down. However, when the saga begins, the biggest worries for the 12 year-old Mauro (Michel Joelsas) have little to do with the military dictatorships in South America, or with the Vietnam War for that matter. Mauro's dream involves sports, wishing Brazil to become the three-time winner of the World Cup.

The saga is set at a stage in life when boys move from childhood into adolescence though various rites of passage. Mauro's left-wing militants parents (Simone Spaladore and Eduardo Moreira) are forced to go underground, leaving him with his grandfather (Paulo Autran), who resides in a Sao Paulo suburb. Then, as in many tales, something unexpected happens to his grandfather and Mauro is left all alone, unable to reach his folks.

Mauro's grandfathers next-door neighbor Shlomo (Germano Haiut), a solitary Jewish man and employee of the local synagogue, takes care of him. Though nonplussed to find Mauro isn't circumcised (his mother is Gentile), the Yiddish-speaking community amiably adopts the boy, while Shlomo courageously tries to find out why his parents are not calling.

As a result of this peculiar cohabitation, based on plunging into unknown world, Mauro emerges more mature and more quickly than he (or we viewers) had anticipated. While waiting for a call from his parents, Mauro learns to face a harsh, painful reality. In what becomes a combination of fate and irony, Mauro has to repeat the saga of his grandparents–Jewish immigrants–surviving in a new world.

Along the way, Mauro encounters colorful characters, including Hanna (Daniela Piepszyk), an irreverent, tomboyish girl with talent for making bets and deals, like providing peeks at women while changing dresses in her mother's place. A pretty waitress, Irene (Liliana Castro), sparks the imagination of the kids from the block. At the locale bar where people congregate to watch Pele and Tostao compete for the World Cup championship, we meet a Rabbi who's a fan of the Corinthian soccer team, a Brazilian-Italian man talo, who is involved in student demonstrations, and Edgar, the mulatto goalie of the local soccer team.

Mauro shares with his new friends his passion for soccer, his first sexual discoveries, and his desire to regain happiness that had been suffocated by the dictatorship.

Director Hamburger handles the material with a light (but not trivial) touch, which some critics have compared to the Lasse Hallstrom's Swedish coming-of-age charmer, “My Life as a Dog.”

The tale is narrated by an older Mauro, looking back on this tumultuous period of his life, when emotions were ambiguous and experiences significant. The ending is rather tragic but well-earned, bringing to the fore the intriguing link between personal memory and collective, factual history.

Credits

Running time: 103 Minutes.

A Gullane Filmes/Caos Producoes/ Miravista/Globo Filmes production.
Produced by Caio Gullane, Cao Hamburger, Fabiano Gullane.
Executive producers, Caio Gullane, Fabiano Gullane, Sonia Hamburger.
Co-producers, Fernando Meirelles, Daniel Filho. Directed by Cao Hamburger.
Screenplay, Claudio Galperin, Braulio Mantovani, Anna Muylaert, Hamburger.
Camera: Adriano Goldman.
Editor: Daniel Rezende.
Music: Beto Villares.
Art director: Cassio Amarante.
Sound: Romeu Quinto.
Associate producers, Debora Ivanov, Patrick Siaretta, Paulo Ribeiro.

Cast

Mauro – Michel Joelsas
Shlomo – Germano Haiut
Italo – Caio Blat
Hanna – Daniela Piepszyk
Irene – Liliana Castro
Mother – Simone Spaladore
Father – Eduardo Moreira
With: Rodrigo Dos Santos, Paulo Autran.