Tribeca Movie Review: The Year My Parents Went On Vacation

The following movie was reviewed at the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival.

The Year My Parents Went on Vacation

The Year My Parents Went on Vacation (O Ano em que Meus Pais Saíram de Férias)

World Narrative Competition

2006, Brazil

Dir: Cao Hamburger

The year was 1970. Man had recently landed on the moon and Pelé had scored his one thousandth goal. In Brazil, times were turbulent and agitated. The end of the 60's ushered in a period of regime change, with the military dictatorship under General Emílio Garrastazu Médici taking flagrant attacks on the rights of all civilians and their free expression. But 12 year-old Mauro was not concerned with such dilemmas. He had bigger fish to fry. He had the 1970 World Cup to look forward to, where Brazil was billed as the favorite to take home the trophy.

The Year My Parents Went on Vacation tells the story of a young boy whose parents, members of a left-wing militia, must go into hiding and leave him behind for his own safety. They decide to drop him off with his grandfather, an orthodox Jew who lives in the Jewish neighborhood of Bom Retiro in SÃ¥o Paolo. Upon being dropped off, Mauro, played by Michel Joelsas in his first film, finds out his grandfather has suddenly died, and he is forced to stay with his grandfather's neighbor Schlomo, played by Germano Haiut. Now, Mauro has been stranded in an alien community with traditions he has never been exposed to before. Instantly, he feels lonely and estranged from everything that was once familiar to him, except for his beloved World Cup.

Director Cao Hamburger opts to focus on Mauro's personal turmoil than on the tense political climate of the time. However, Hamburger cleverly allows the subtle political pressure to sit behind in the shadows, making for a great juxtaposition of emotions throughout. Mauro is overwhelmed with joy when the World Cup begins and has made new friends in the community, but the fear of never seeing his parents again has not gone away and looms over him constantly. Not to mention that the oppressive government is never far away either, as we see Schlomo also has his hands caught up in the political scene and comes into contact with the officials.

The mixture of sports and politics adds a phenomenal touch to a story that is, at its core, fundamentally about an outsider trying to fit in. The performances given by the actors playing Mauro and Schlomo are stunning and uplifting. The film shines with a presence of its own, as we see Mauro delight in being a boy and not having to always worry about the world of the grown-ups. A brilliant film.

/Film Rating: 9 out of 10