ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan National Council of Arts (PNCA) on Sunday hosted a screening of Brazilian film, The Year My Parents Went on Vacation, as part of the Human Rights through Cinematography Film Festival. Directed by Cao Hamburger, the film is set in 1970 Brazil showing a divided society, torn between the euphoria of the 1970 World Cup and the dictatorship. Against that backdrop, we see Mauro, a 10-year-old whose parents are forced to go away because of their political activism, leaving him with his grandfather, Mótel.

Fleeing in a hurry, Daniel and Miriam Stern leave Mauro in front of Mótel’s apartment building, where he waits outside the apartment door for hours until a neighbour, Shlomo tells him that Mótel was dead.

Mauro is taken in by Shlomo as no one knows where his parents are. He is then befriended by Hanna who helps him make friends and navigate his new life.

The children are not particularly observant or acting older than their age, they are, however, the means through which we see the dichotomy of Brazil in 1970. It was the year that the football obsessed nation won the third world cup, Mauro collects pictures of the players, plays miniature football on the table, wants to be a goalkeeper and cheers for the team.

Football is the one thing Mauro has common with all of Brazil and the new neighbourhood he is suddenly part of. The sport becomes a unifying theme that cuts across ethnicities and politics but Mauro is also witness to the movement of the police and military on the streets in what was the harshest period of the dictatorship as it cracked down on the opposition.

As Mauro waits for his parents without losing hope, we see that hope diminishing over time as the sense his life will never be the same again prevails. As time passes Mauro’s language and communication changes – he is silent more.

Like the child that he is, he gets frustrated but there is no draama or overacting.

What is fascinating is the weaving together of a political and social backdrop with a personal story of a young child who is waiting for his parents.

Visually, the film has been shot with small hand-held cameras in close quarters, lending it an old world charm. The neighbourhood where the filming takes place is not one that has been modernized and that adds to the sense of it being set in 1970.

A guest, Rabia Begum said: “It was quite a great movie, about the era we always read about but could hardly ever imagine what different people of different ages, went through in their lives. While watching the movie, the audience actually felt that they are going through all this along the characters. After watching it, I certainly have a clearer picture of Brazil in 1970s.”

Another guest, Srosh Anwar said: “A part of Brazilian history that tells the story of prosecution of political activists from a child’s perspective.

“The movie deals with a very heavy topic in a subtle way with a touch of humour.”

Published in Dawn, December 3rd, 2018