GABRIEL AND THE MOUNTAIN is based on the true story of Brazilian student Gabriel Buchmann played by Joao Zappa) who takes a year off to hike in Africa before continuing his education in 2009. And i am not gonna lie the full movie is enjoyable to watch online. After a brief prologue, we pick up Gabriel’s trip about two months before it’s scheduled end (the movie is broken down into four chapters: Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia and Malawi).
In Tanzania, Gabriel greets his Brazilian girlfriend Cristina (Caroline Abras) and she remains for the Zambian portion of the story. While Cristina’s presence give the movie some background into Gabriel, it conversely, also impedes the progress of it. The Kenya and Malawi chapters are interesting as they depict Gabriel exploring alone and having to make friends with the locals he meets along the way. Boyfriend and girlfriend stories are commonplace. Further, the couple end up visiting tourist sites – again, a diminution of the tale’s exploration theme. Abras is good in the role, but it smacks of the commercial needs of the filmmakers over their artistic ones.
What’s most interesting about the movie is Director Fellipe Barbosa’s decision to use the actual people Gabriel met along the way to play themselves, with a couple of exceptions also that is include free download. While not professional performers, it gives the movie a verisimilitude above and beyond the norm. Barbosa also has the people do voice-overs of their present day feelings for Gabriel, a decade later. It’s an interesting device, even if takes some getting used to (one is reminded of Terence Malick’s recent work).
The Voice-overs and the Chapters are intended to give the movie a structure, but, it isn’t fully satisfying. We never get a true sense of the full year-long journey. Gabriel himself is depicted as a prickly, selfish sort. One gives the Barbosa credit for not making him into a saint, but, it can be difficult to fully identify with him, or his adventure. Ultimately, one feels a bit frustrated – much like Gabriel’s trip itself.