Brazil is one of the few countries that you can always rely on in the realm of cinema. Unfortunately, their movies often go unnoticed by the rest of the world. This year, the film chosen to represent the country at the Oscars was Mars One. Despite its fascinating subject matter and execution, it ended up not even being shortlisted by the Academy. It’s a true pity, because the Academy gives underseen movies publicity, and the world needs to see stories like this.
Don't be fooled by the title. Mars One is not a science fiction movie. It is, in fact, a film with its feet firmly on the ground, following everyday people and the everyday difficulties that they must overcome. These are people with dreams – big dreams, like the one of the young Deivinho, who wants to study astrophysics and one day be part of the Mars One Project, an operation that aims to colonize the planet Mars. Such a dream is contrary to what his father, Wellington, wants for him. Wanting his son's best interests, he sees his son’s greatest chances of succeeding in life in football – a game that, if one wins, his whole family will win, too.
Deivinho also has a sister, Eunice, who falls in love with a girl and doesn't know how to open up to her parents about her love and her dream of being more independent. Finally, there is the mother, Tércia (magnificently acted by Rejane Faria), who believes she is cursed after a fake terrorist incident that led to her developing PTSD. She knows it was only a prank for a television show, but she can’t avoid uneasiness and the feeling that everything has gone wrong since that day.
Mars One explores the mundane problems of all these characters, as well as their dreams, in a smart and thoughtful way. It ponders simple relationships wherein things go awry because people are afraid to hurt others by telling the truth. As you could imagine, honest communication would be enough for each of these people to understand the other, their dreams, their fears and their life goals.
There is, however, a scene in the film that is devoid of drama. Consequently, it will likely never leave my head. On the street, next to a grill, in a neighbourhood that apparently doesn’t have a lot, the family, for a moment, seem to have everything they need. There is joy, there is music, dance, a party in which everyone participates, and there is a side of these lower-middle class neighbourhoods that is very different from what outsiders want to show us about the country. Director Gabriel Martins portrays a society that has known how to live happily and wants to live that way again.
This moment is particularly important because, in the background of this story, the film notes the election of Jair Bolsonaro for President of the Republic. A victory of hate, a victory of fear, a victory of division. In that place, at that time, none of that tension exists. What we see in that scene is the real Brazil. The Brazil of the past, the Brazil of the future and the Brazil that never ceased to be, despite negative political circumstances.
Much of the anguish resulting from that political outcome is reflected in the fears and panic experienced by the family, as well as in the false relationships that exist between the poor and the more affluent classes. This fact is particularly visible in Wellington, who has worked for many years as a doorman in one of the buildings where only rich people are allowed to live. He believes he has a trusting relationship with some of these people. He doesn't know that, for these people, he is little more than cheap labour, someone inferior who will not be forgiven for the slightest mistake.
Social issues are one of the main focuses of Mars One and their emphasis adds great temporal value, but it's in the family and its relationships that the film’s strength lies. It is easy to understand how different dynamics exist between the various family members. It is easy for us to understand that there are dreams that are easier to share with some than with others. But the essential thing is that their home is the haven for all four of them. It is with those at home that they feel at ease. They are the ones you can always count on. The ones that will always be part of their dreams. It is with them that one may go to the end of the world. Maybe even to Mars.
Mars One is streaming on Netflix.