May 1, 2008

300 Words About: The Year My Parents Went on Vacation

O Ano em Que Meus Pais Saíram de Férias (The Year My Parents Went on Vacation) is the kind of film you don't realize has totally engulfed you until it's almost over. You think you've seen it before, the set-up seems familiar, there's no major incident. Then you realize, no, actually you don't know this story; you don't know the experience of a 12 year-old boy whose activist parents, desperately looking for safety under Brazil's military dictatorship in 1970, unknowingly leave him with his already-dead grandfather in an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood in São Paulo. Amidst the frightening circumstances, young Mauro (Michel Joelsas, in his film debut) displays fierce independence and bravery while quickly befriending his grandfather's neighbor, Shlomo (Germano Haiut), and the flirtatious tomboy, Hanna (Daniela Piepszyk), who also lives in the building. Our experience is Mauro's: we don't understand what's being said in hushed tones or where our parents are, and we're not immediately comfortable with Shlomo looking after us. We just want our parents to come back as soon as possible, and in the meantime play as much table soccer and watch as much of the World Cup as possible. Director Cao Hamburger takes his time on the way to the film's moving (and somewhat surprising) end, and all we can do is pass the time with Mauro and his friends. This is no Home Alone in Brazil, however, as there are moments of real pain in between the frequent laughs. The cinematography and production design (it was filmed on location) bring an added dimension of intimacy to the story, and Joelsas, who was reportedly selected from a group of almost 1,000 auditionees, wonderfully carries the film from the first frame to Mauro's final, indelible voiceover. The Year My Parents Went on Vacation is an inspired work, and was Brazil's official submission for Best Foreign Language Film in 2008. I didn't even mention the political and cultural importance of the story, but the film has definitely made its mark in the country, garnering a whopping 13 Cinema Brazil Grand Prize nominations in 2008. It's sweet film about a sour time in Brazil's history.


  1. Yikes! "leave him with his already-dead grandfather in an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood in São Paulo." What a nightmare for a little kid. The film sounds great, though.

    Another fine review, Daniel.

  2. Thanks, Rick. That set-up is pretty daunting to say the least, but it provides a really unique background to the story. Just to be clear, the parents don't know he's dead (and the kid doesn't find him or anything gross), and there's a really funny bit about the grandfather's timing. Hopefully nobody considers that a major spoiler since it happens in the first 4 minutes or so, but sorry anyway.

  3. You have great travel/vacation blog !!!

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