THE YEAR MY PARENTS WENT ON VACATION (Cao Hamburger). 104 minutes. Subtitled. Opens Friday (March 28). Rating: NNNN
Organized sports can be an ugly thing, with nationalist rivalries taking on racist hues and fans of opposing teams getting violent. But sports can also be a unifying force, as this gorgeous little film attests.
The year is 1970, when Brazil wins its third World Cup. Mauro (Michel Joelsas) is a soccer-mad preteen whose radical parents go on “vacation” to escape Brazil’s dictatorship. They leave him on his grandfather’s doorstep in São Paulo, unaware that the man died that afternoon.
The neighbourhood adopts Mauro, allowing director Cao Hamburger to weave multiple themes through the narrative. We meet Shlomo, an elderly neighbour. Hanna, a streetwise gamine. and Italo, a fellow traveller, among others. Hamburger touches on sexual awakening, interracial dating, religious tolerance and political repression, and yet manages to turn what could have been a didactic drama into a bittersweet comedy.
It’s a remarkable feat, and the details are exquisite. I distinctly remember owning a pair of pants much like Hanna’s as a child. The best part, though, is how the beautiful game unites them all. The only people who don’t seem to care about the tournament are the government thugs.
I don’t know a better argument for sports.