Brazil's official submission for the 2008 Academy Awards (for which it made the "longlist" of finalists but failed to receive one of the controversial nominations), Cao Hamburger's "The Year My Parents Went On Vacation" has made the rounds of over 30 worldwide film festivals, including Berlin and Toronto. Set around the 1970 World Cup, "Vacation" details a couple who leave their son Marco with his grandfather, only to have his grandfather die of a heart attack just after the parents leave. Alone and without knowing where is parents are, Marco stays with his grandfather's next door neighbor Shlomo in the Jewish community of Bom Retiro. Screening in limited release as of last Friday, Hamburger spoke with indieWIRE about his experiences on "Vacation."
What initially attracted you to filmmaking, and how has that interest evolved during your career?
I was first attracted to filmmaking when I discovered I wasn't a very good musician... Then I found in the film industry a good manner to communicate with the world, to people wherever they are. This first impulse keeps being my main reason. In the way how I've been working I'm involved not only with directing but also with screenwriting and producing. But I'm opened to work in other ways as well.
Please discuss how the idea for "The Year My Parents Went on Vacation" came about.
The first ideas came to my mind when I was living in London. I was in the situation of being a foreigner. That is a kind of exile, as the situation of the main character in the film. Observing the differences between my own culture and this new culture I was inserted in, I found myself looking back to my own roots, mainly my childhood. After having researched and making some notes, I contacted Claudio Galperin and we wrote the story together, mixing our own experiences but created a unique and original story.
Please elaborate a bit on your approach to making the film, including your influences.
I have pretty broad cinematographic influences. I like almost all good movies, which serve as food for thought, coming from different styles and genres. I think you could say it is a characteristic of my generation. I'm a big fan of Stanley Kubrick, Sergio Leone, Fellini, Steven Spielberg, Chaplin, Kusturica, Japanese films, contemporary Argentine, Wim Wenders, Fernando Meirelles... I'm a big audiovisual mixing pot. But, with so many references, I try to find my own style, decanting and researching that which is most personal in different styles and narratives.
In this film I was after a more intimate frequency in everything. I tried to conduct the orchestra to play a pianissimo. In all the different segments of the film. In the acting, art direction, in the camera's language itself, editing, etc. We tried not to stray from the frequency of the story we were telling, the cadence of the emotions that the characters were living. We didn't want anything in the film to jump out on spectators, to stand out from the rest, to stand out in the story. I think the whole crew understood this and dove headfirst into this universe we were creating.
What other genres or stories would like to explore as a filmmaker?
Even before being a filmmaker I was a big "cinefile" (movie fan) and I never had a favorite genre. I always loved good movies, independent of the genre or where it came from, from eastern European films to north-American blockbusters.... As a filmmaker I also have interest in different genres and stories.
What is your next project?
My next projects are: a thriller film about the human relationship with death called "ICU"; a story about two brothers which get in contact with the Brazilian Indians, called "Xingu".
What are some of your all-time favorite films?
As I said before my taste for films is very wide, this makes it very difficult for me to name just a few films.
What are your interests outside of film?
Currently I'm really interested in the future of the audiovisual arts and the new medias.
Please share an achievement from your career so far that you are most proud of.
I was really glad that "The Year My Parents Went On Vacation" was sold to more than 25 countries, participated in more than 30 festivals including Competition at Berlin Film Festival and Tribeca Film Festival, winning several awards around the world. And now we are releasing the film in the US, which is reason of great satisfaction for us.