Year My Parents Went on Vacation, The: Brazil’s Political and Cultural Context

“The Year My Parents Went on Vacation,” Brazil’s official entry for the foreign-language Oscar, which is set in the turbulent year of 1970, is a poignant and humorous coming of age story about twelve year-old Mauro (Michel Joelsas), thrust into a maelstrom of political and personal upheaval.

When his left-wing militant parents are forced to go underground, Mauro is left in the care of his Jewish grandfathers neighbor in Sao Paulo. Suddenly finding himself an exile in his own country, he is forced to create an ersatz family from the religiously diverse and colorful population of his new neighborhood.

“The Year My Parents Went on Vacation” is award-winning writer-director Hamburgers second film and is co-produced by Academy Award-nominated director Fernando Meirelles (City of God, The Constant Gardener.)

Historical Context

The Lead Years

In 1970, Brazil won the World Cup for the third time. While Brazilians got together to watch their all-star team win the Jules Rimet Cup on television, the dictatorship was loose on the streets of Brazil.

In the so-called Lead Years, Brazil was going through the worst years of assaults against civilian rights and free expression. The military dictatorship began with the March 1964 coup dtat and continued until 1985. To insure the established order and fight the so-called corruption and opposition groups, the military government used repressive tactics. Any resistance was stifled through prison, torture, assassination and exile.

During the 1970 World Cup, Institutional Act 7 was in force, which, among other measures, suspended elections until November of that same year. Accompanying this authoritarian and suppressive legislation of civil rights, the states political machine was used as an instrument for institutional and political propaganda, to manipulate public opinion, to censure, torture and assassinate opposition leaders and to revoke the Constitution.
During the military dictatorship, Brazil was governed by two Supreme Commanders and three generals. The first government was that of Supreme Commander Humberto de Alencar Castello (1964-1967). The second was that of Supreme Commander Arthur da Costa e Silva (1967-1969). The third belonged to General Emilio Garrastazu Medici (1969 -1974). General Ernesto Geisel was the fourth head of state, governing from 1974-1979. And lastly, General Joao Figueiredo was in command from 1979 to 1985. Dissidence continued and promoted terrorist activities, kidnappings, violent holdups, guerrilla warfare, ideological control and torture.

The Bom Retiro District

In the 1970s, the Bom Retiro district was a caldron of ethnic groups and cultures, a true example of the miscegenation so characteristic of Sao Paulo. Besides the immense Jewish community living in this pleasant neighborhood, one could find Italian, Greek and Arab immigrants all peacefully living together.

Today, Bom Retiro has lost the majority of its old inhabitants, who passed on their establishments to Korean businessmen and Bolivian immigrants. It still maintains its commercial characteristics and is one of the largest textile business centers in the country.

The 1970 World Cup (the Jules Rimet Cup)

On the soccer fields, Brazil was going through its moment of glory. During the 1970 World Cup, the unforgettable all-star team made up of Pel, Carlos Alberto, Tostao, Gerson, Rivelino and other aces gave no chance to their adversaries and won six out of six games. The championship became one of the most exciting of all times.

High spirits spread throughout Brazil and the triple world cup conquest turned into political propaganda in the hands of the military government. Ironically, years later, the Jules Rimet Cup was stolen from the Soccer Association headquarters in Rio de Janeiro. Legend has it that the cup was later melted for its gold in Sao Paulo.