There's a fascinating, if not entirely original, idea in Brazilian director Maria Clara Escobar's debut film: to uncover part of the forgotten history of 20th century Brazil - the years it spent under military dictatorship - through the story of her father, Brazilian academic, philosopher and communist militant Carlos Henrique Escobar, now relocated to Portugal with a new family. To use her own personal family history as a doorway into the past, not only the past of a country but also the past of a family that never truly existed - Carlos Henrique recognised Maria Clara as his daughter, but never married her mother.

     That's not the film Ms. Escobar ended up making, and I'm not sure whether that change of plans wasn't for the better - it turns out that the idea of talking of a period insufficiently researched through a personal story becomes a tale of family relationships and estrangement, as the director suddenly finds getting her father to discuss the subject at hand is the same thing as drawing blood from a rock. Mr. Escobar is unwilling to relinquish control of his narrative (whether political or personal) and does so bordering on a condescension borne of righteousness, Ms. Escobar becomes frustrated at his obstinacy, and the underlying tension born of their mutual stubbornness becomes the very subject of Os Dias com Ele, as the duty of memory that was at the project's inception transforms into an attempt at bridging a generation gap that didn't seem to be there in the first place but was probably unavoidable.

     There's a strong sense of tip-toeing around an elephant in the room, a beast that goes unseen and unmentioned but that is nevertheless present; Os Dias com Ele thus becomes a chronicle of learning to live with secrets and a past that is kept locked away, wondering whether it is better - or what purpose would it serve - to bring it out on to the open. All of this while remaining true to the original project of uniting the "little history" of people and the "big history" of the world, micro and macro in one movement, only in an entirely different way than originally designed.

Director and cinematographer: Maria Clara Escobar
Editors: Júlia Murat, Juliane Rojas
Production: Filmes de Abril
Brazil, 2013, 107 minutes

Screened: DocLisboa 2013 official competition advance screener, Lisbon, October 18th 2013


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