O Ano em Que Meus Pais Sairam de Férias (The Year my Parents went on Vacation)  (2006)




Director:    Cao Hamburger.

Starring:    Michel Joelsas (Mauro),  Germano Haiut (Shlomo),  Paulo Autran (Mótel, Mauro's grandfather),  Simone Spoladore (Bia - Mauro's mother),  Eduardo Moreira (Daniel, Mauro's father),  Caio Blat (Ítalo),  Daniela Piepszyk (Hanna),  Liliana Castro (Irene),  Rodrigo dos Santos (Edgar).

 set against the military dictatorship in Brazil, 1964-1985


Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film. 

"It was 1970, man had just visited the moon, and Pelé had scored his thousandth goal.  Nevertheless, the year began in low spirit.  The Cold War was in full swing, totalitarian regimes threatened democracy and in Brazil things were hardly any different." 

On the table Mauro is playing a game of hand soccer.  His mother Bia impatiently waits for the arrival of father.  He finally arrives and his wife complains that he is always late. 

Belo Horizonte, 1970.  Everyone piles into the Volkwagon bug and off they go.  The parents are going to leave Mauro with his grandfather, while they go on vacation.  A military truck filled with armed soldiers pulls out onto the road.  Dad and mom seem to tense up at the sight.  Dad passes the truck.  At night they stay in a motel. 

São Paulo.  District of Bom Retiro.  Mauro notices some Jewish men walking on the street.  He is being left with grandfather.  He tells his parents that he doesn't want to stay here, but mother says:  "Listen, we're not going because we want to."  Mauro asks why they are going?  No answer.  When are they coming back?  No answer.  Dad seems a bit nervous, looking around the neighborhood.  Dad says they will be back in time for the World Cup of soccer.  Something is wrong, because the parents are just too nervous for things to be normal.  Mother cries as they leave the district. 

Mauro picks up his suitcase and goes into the apartment building.  He walks past a mother and her little girl.  The two children stare at each other.  Mauro goes up the stairs and knocks on the door of grandfather's apartment.  No one answers.  So he plays hand soccer on the floor.  An old man speaks in a foreign language to Mauro, scares the boy and Mauro now really bangs on his grandfather's door.  The man asks who he is and who he wants to see?  He is shocked when he hears the answers to his questions, because the boy's grandfather just recently died. 

The strange man and Mauro attend the Jewish funeral.  Mauro notices that everyone seems old and everyone seems to be looking at him and he doesn't like it.  It doesn't seem that the boy has had much religious training because he is like a fish out of water. 

Flashback.  On the way to his apartment, the parents call grandfather at his barber shop.  They tell grandfather there is no other choice for them.  Grandfather hangs up the phone.  He is preparing to shave off the beard of a man, but falls over dead onto the floor.

Back to the present.  After the funeral, the old man gives Mauro the key to the apartment and tells Mauro to go ahead and go on up by himself.    The old man discusses the situation with the Rabbi.  He wants to know who will take care of the boy? 

Back in the apartment, the phone rings in the apartment of Mauro's grandfather.  He rushes over there, but can't get in.  So, he goes out on his patio and then crosses over to grandfather's patio.  A man sees him and shouts for him to get down from there.  Then the little girl that he was staring at, comes onto the patio and asks him what is he doing?  Mauro answers that it's none of her business.  Hanna tells him that for certain it must be the business of Shlomo (the old man).  She tells him to go see Mr. Machado because he has the keys to all the apartments. 

Mr. Machado lets Mauro into the apartment and then leaves.  Mauro looks around the place.  He makes a phone call, but no one answers the phone. 

Shlomo comes back to the apartment.  He finds Mauro sitting in his grandfather's apartment just waiting by the phone. 

The next morning Mauro awakens to the sound of Shlomo praying out loud. Mauro goes to look at the man, but he just closes the door in Mauro's face.  Shlomo takes a long shower and Mauro is desperate to urinate.  So he urinates on a potted plant.  Coming out of the shower, Shlomo is shocked to see this.  And he is further shocked when he sees that the boy's penis is not circumcised.  He says:  "You're not Jewish! You're a goy!"

For breakfast Shlomo gives Mauro coffee and brown bread.  Mauro asks for milk, but Shlomo serves it to him cold, which he is not used to.  Shlomo now gives Mauro some fish for breakfast and Mauro is shocked that the man eats the stuff for breakfast.  Mauro can't even stand the smell of the fish and leaves the table.  Shlomo goes out for awhile telling Mauro not to touch anything.  Below in the courtyard Mauro sees Hanna playing with three boys. 

In the hallway Mauro plays with his soccer ball.  He is wearing a Jewish shawl and this gets him a slap from Shlomo for not showing any respect for the religion.  Mauro is shocked.  He holds his hand to his cheek and walks downstairs. 

Shlomo tells others that he is not family to the boy.  And it's not his fault, if the parents just left the boy behind.  The real shocker is when the others learn that the boy is a goy.  Only his father is Jewish.  Someone says send the boy to an orphanage, but that is not a popular idea.  Another man says the boy is not the problem.  It's the parents that are the problem.  Why don't they come back for the boy?  Still another man says:  "The Rabbi thinks they're involved in politics."  A shock goes through the room.  Could the father, Daniel Stein, be a communist?  Someone cautions against concluding without evidence that Daniel is a communist.  The man sitting at the desk tells everyone that Daniel told his father that he and his wife were going on vacation.  He then says to Shlomo:  "Shlomo, if God left the boy at your door, He surely knows what He's doing.  Or have you forgotten the story of Moses in Egypt?"

Shlomo returns home, but there is no sign of Mauro.  He goes next door and knocks, but Shlomo won't let him in.  So he returns to his place. During the night a young man paints a slogan on the wall of another building.  

The next morning Shlomo knocks again on the door, but Mauro still won't answer.  So, Shlomo goes about his daily business.  Mauro goes out on the patio and watches as grandfather walks down the street.  Grandfather and Mauro both see the painted slogan:  "Down with dictatorship!"

Alone, Mauro dresses in grandfather's clothes.  Hanna knocks on the door, saying that Mauro has to go home to eat his lunch.  Mauro says nothing.  After Hanna leaves, he looks for things to eat, but what little he finds is stale.  He does find some eggs and decides to cook them.  While cooking, he burns his right hand on the skillet.  After lunch he finds some postcards of pin-up women.  He seems very happy about this, but his pleasure is interrupted by the arrival of Hanna.  He asks her how she got into the apartment, but all she says is:  "Magic."  She offers him some cake that her mother made, but he refuses to eat it. 

Hanna takes a look at his burned hand and asks him when was the last time he took a shower?  No answer.  He gives Hanna some money and asks her to go get him a sports magazine so he can keep up with the World Soccer news.  She agrees.

At night Shlomo comes into the apartment and catches the boy with his feet up on a coffee table.  Shlomo complains that he's ruining the table, but Mauro just tells him that the table was his grandfather's and he'll do with it as he wants. 

Hanna comes over and Mauro tells her that his grandfather fought the Nazis in World War II.  She asks him if he can play real soccer and Mauro tells her that he is on his school's soccer team. She invites him to come out with her, but Mauro just says he's too busy.  But soon Mauro is running down the street to catch up with Hanna.  Hanna introduces Mauro to her three friends:  Boris, Caco and Duda.  The boys start to tease him about being a goy and having a dad in prison.  She takes money from the three boys and then lets them in past a gate.  Hanna tells Mauro to come on along because the first time is free. 

Hanna leads the boys down to a place where there are three peep holes.  The boys take their positions and watch the girls trying on clothing in the clothing store next door.   There are some young women there, but several old women are going to try on clothes.  The boys just close the peep holes.  They tell Hanna they want their money back, but Hanna refuses.   Hanna stays behind, but the three boys tell Mauro to come with them.  Mauro is happy to tag along.  The boys, however, hide from him.  When Mauro spots them they tell him to follow them and they take off running once more.  They run into a small cafe.  Mauro follows them into the cafe and the waitress there takes a liking to Mauro immediately and brings him some water.  The adult men are sitting at the bar talking about soccer.  Soon Mauro tells one of the guys that he doesn't know what he's talking about.  The other fellows laugh at this.  They want to know who he is and he says he's the barber's grandson.  He adds:  "But I don't know how to get home."   The waitress tells him to wait and she will take him home.  A young guy seems very interested in Mauro.  He gets up and starts telling him that he is a friend of his father's, Daniel Stein.  Mauro says dad's on vacation, but the guy says he already knows that. 

The waitress starts walking Mauro home.  They come to the apartment building and Hanna and the three guys are there and they all know Irene.  A guy comes up on a motorcycle.  Irene tells Mauro to come watch the soccer match at the cafe.  She gives Mauro a kiss, gets on the back of the motorcycle and takes off with the guy.   Hanna and the boys are impressed.  Hanna tells Mauro:  "She's old enough to be your mother!"  Mauro goes inside the apartment building.  He picks up Shlomo's mail, lays it at the doorstep, knocks on the door and runs to his grandfather's apartment.  Shlomo comes out, finds the mail and goes over to tell Mauro to come have dinner with him.  They eat dinner together.  Mauro takes a shower, but only cold water is available.  He doesn't like it, but he completes his shower. 

The day of the World Cup is nearing and still no parents.  Mauro starts eating meals at the apartments of different people.  Three women make a fuss over him.  He even eats over at Hanna's apartment.  Brazil is playing for the world championship of soccer.  When the time comes for the game, all the stores close down so everyone can watch the soccer game.  Czechoslovakia is playing Brazil.  Hanna and the guys invite Mauro to watch the match with them, but Mauro says he has to wait for his parents.  He turns on the television and he and Shlomo watch the match.  Czechoslovakia scores. 

The young man who said he knows Daniel Stein and his radical friends are rooting for Czechoslovakia to win, but when Brazil scores a goal, everyone, including the radicals, jumps for joy and starts shouting with glee.  Pelé scores and the ritual is repeated again.  Pelé scores again and again.  Brazil wins the World Cup.    Shlomo looks out from the patio and sees a Volkswagen bug, but no parents. 

The next morning Shlomo tells Mauro he is going away for awhile, but Mr. Machado will check in on him.  Mauro asks where he is going?  No answer.  When is he coming back?  Soon, he says.  Mauro gets sick and tired of being alone and he starts kicking and throwing things around the apartment.

Irene shows up one day.   They see her go into the dress store.  Hanna rushes the boys to the peep holes place The boys are real excited about seeing Irene take off her clothes.  Mauro has the only good peep hole with which to see Irene and the other boys try in vain to move him from his peep hole.  Irene removes her shirt and Mauro sees Irene in her bra.  Just then a jealous Hanna appears in the clothing store and blocks the peep hole views.  Mauro is mad, but there is nothing he can do about it. 

Shlomo returns.  He tells Mauro that they have to talk.  He went to Belo Horizonte to the Stein's old house. 

Shlomo walks with Mauro over to the university.  He asks to see Ítalo. It looks like a guard for the military government is watching them because he heard the name Ítalo.  The radical student turns out to be the guy who knows Mauro's father.  While Mauro sits and watches the soccer game, Ítalo tells Shlomo that he and the kid shouldn't have come here. 

Mauro observes that there are so many people from around the world living in São Paulo that there are groups of fans for every team in the world.  He says Shlomo, who is of Polish descent, is talking more and more to Itlalo, who is of Italian descent.  Mauro is at a local soccer game.  He sees Irene's boyfriend come in on a motorcycle.  Irene, he says, is of Greed descent, but her boyfriend is African-Brazilian.  The boyfriend is the goalie for the Bom Retiro team, which is mostly made of Jews.  The Italians are a better team, but the Jews' African-Brazilian goalie makes up for it.  Mauro suddenly realizes that he wants to be black and to fly. 

In his apartment Mauro throws the ball against the wall and pretends he is a goalie catching the other team's kicks.  Shlomo starts actively trying to find Mauro's parents.  Ítalo passes a note to Shlomo.  In soccer in the neighborhood Mauro plays the position of goalie.  Mauro sees a blue Volkswagen bug pass by.  He thinks it's his parents and chases after the car.  He takes short cuts and runs and runs to catch the car.  He gets very close until a young Asian boy in the back seat sticks his head up and looks at Mauro. 

Hanna comes over and gives Mauro a soccer card of the soccer player Everaldo.  He asks her how much does she want for the card, but she tells him it's for free.  Mauro puts the picture in his scrap album of all the members of the Brazilian soccer team.  Now he has every player. 

Shlomo takes Mauro to the synagogue.  The women have to sit in the balcony separated from the men.  Mauro watches as a boy has his Bar Mitzvah. Later, Mauro dances with a girl other than Hanna.  Hanna is upset so Mauro encourages her to come up and dance with him.  She does so and the kids have a great time.  The sound of horse hooves are herd running through the streets.  Hanna and the guys chase after the policemen on horses.  The policemen start arresting college students.  The police on horseback start to push the crowd back.  Irene's boyfriend grabs Mauro and drives him to his apartment building.  They shake hands before the boyfriend takes off. 

Up by their apartment a bleeding Ítalo cowers by the apartment door.  Mauro rushes over and asks if he has been shot.  Not shot, but beat up.  He seems very scared.  Mauro lets Ítalo come into the apartment, then he leaves to go get Shlomo.  Shlomo immediately draws all the curtains over the windows.  Mauro feeds Ítalo, who then plays hand soccer with Mauro. Mauro asks the young radical if he knows anything about his parents?  Ítalo says they are on vacation and they will be coming back. 

There's a knock on the door.  Mauro goes to see who it is.  It's two policemen wanting to see Shlomo.  Mauro says this apartment is the home of Mótel.  After the police leave, Ítalo tells Mauro those were the police.  Mauro looks out the patio and sees the policemen taking Shlomo away.  Ítalo says that now he himself will have to go on "vacation". 

Mauro runs and tells the Rabbi that the police took Shlomo.  The Rabbi tells him to go back home because he will handle the situation.  Down at police headquarters the police start interrogating Shlomo. 

A year has past and it's time for the World Cup again.  Brazil is playing Italy this time.  Mauro looks out the big window saying over and over to himself:  "Blue beetle, blue beetle."  Hanna comes and tells him the match is about to start.   The two of them go over to Irene's cafe to watch the game on television.  Irene sits next to Mauro and Hanna isn't pleased.  Brazil. scores a goal and everyone goes wild.  Then the Italians score a goal and everyone is sad.  In a taxi Shlomo is brought home.  Mauro goes to see him.  He finds him in his kitchen.  Mauro gives him a big hug.  They talk about the soccer match.  Then Shlomo takes him to Mótel's apartment.  They pass by a medical doctor.  Mauro goes into the bedroom and finds his mother sleeping there.  Mom tells him she has missed him very much.  He asks for his father, but mom remains quiet and starts to cry a little.  She says:  "Your dad's always late, son." 

Brazil wins the World Cup again and there is dancing in the streets.  At night, Mauro sits on his mother's bed and looks out the window.

Hanna kicks the ball for Mauro so he can practice being a goalie.  Later he packs his one suitcase.  Hanna is sorry to see him go.  He lets her keep his soccer ball.  Shlomo is also sad to see Mauro leave. 

As narrator Mauro says:  "And that's how 1970 turned out.  Brazil won the World Cup for the third time.  And not really understanding how, I ended becoming what's called an exile.  I think to be an exile means having a dad who's so amazingly late, he ends up never coming home again."


I enjoyed the movie.  It reminds of all those Argentinean films I watched about life under their cruel military dictatorship.  This film is somewhat similar, but is just more subtle.  The movie concentrates on the reactions of the young boy Mauro to having his parents suddenly go on "vacation" to try and get away from the clutches of the military dictatorship.  The boy is told so little that he is protected somewhat from excessive worry about his parents.  Nevertheless, such a long, unexplained absence is hard on the boy and his emotions. Even at the end, his mother does not tell him what really happened.  One day he will figure it out for himself or somone else will set him straight. 

Michel Joelsas was good as the young boy Mauro and I also liked the acting of Daniela Piepszyk as the young girl Hanna.


Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.



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