The Year My Parents Went on Vacation

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I remember my first Copa del Mundo as a thinking human being.  It took place in Spain, and I was 9 years old — the year, 1982. The mascot was Naranjito, an akward-looking hybrid of an orange and soccer ball, and the official ball was la Tango España 82 — a remake of the original Tango used in the World Cup of 1978 in Argentina. For me, that event was something important, something I had never seen before. It was the first time I felt national pride. Although my country, Ecuador, would not make it until 2002, with Latin American countries Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Honduras and Peru on the field, I felt well represented. Italy ended up wining that year, and I was not able to complete the collection of picture cards with the players — no matter how many I managed to buy, Maradona never came — but I will never forget that year.

Mauro (Michel Joelsas), the protagonist of  The Year My Parents Went on Vacation (directed by Cao Hamburger) will never forget 1970. He is 12. His parents leave him by his grandfather’s door before the beginning of the championship. They are leaving for exile — if somebody asks; tell them we are on vacation, they have told the boy prior to departure.  But grandpa never opens the door. The old men has died a few hours before Mauro is dropped, so the boy is left to the fortune of living partly by himself and partly with a neighbor — a middle-aged, good-hearted man (Germano Haiut) who introduces Mauro into Brazil’s Jewish community.

This is a movie you shouldn’t miss. The script, by Adriana Falcão, incorporates some of the many factors that have made Brazil a fascinating country, like cultural diversity and coexistence. From the actors, directing, and technical execution, it’s hard to believe this is only Hamburger’s second movie as director. (He has plenty of experience in TV.)

For Joelsas, it is his very first one — a great debut. He is perfect for the character. He is charismatic yet naughty. You can only love him, but he would drive you crazy. His acting is superb, and I can only hope to see him in future films. The same can be said about the very young actress Daniela Piepszyk who plays a shrewd girl (Hanna) you wish you had as best friend — considering she runs a business of allowing kids to peak into the dressing room of her mom’s store.

Politically, the film takes a mild but interesting approach to a still delicate period in Brazilian history — the years of ditadura under General Emílio Garrastazu Médici commonly known as the “Years of Lead” (1969 – 1974).

Brazil has won five World Cups in total — more than any other country in the history of Copas do Mundo. It also holds one of the most diverse societies on earth and one of the world’s biggest democracies. This movie honors the fervent peoples of Brazil, their cultural tolerance, preeminence in soccer, and political struggle in a fun and sensitive adventure.