Sundance Film Festival: Brazil’s tender dramedy Marte Um (Mars One) focuses on family amid upheaval

The film screens this weekend in Lawrence as part of the Sundance Satellite program.
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Camilla Damião and Cícero Lucas in Marte Um (Mars One). // Courtesy Sundance Institute

[Editor’s note: Lawrence plays host to a screening satellite program this year for the Sundance Film Festival. For more information, read our story on the announcement and overview. Click here to follow our full coverage.]

Marte Um (Mars One), which screens Saturday, Jan. 29 at Liberty Hall in Lawrence, is one of the Sundance Film Festival’s most pleasant surprises thus far. 

Gabriel Martins’ portrait of a working-class Brazilian family trying to stay positive while enduring personal and national upheaval is small in scope but big in heart. The film’s characters and struggles are easily relatable, with expressive performances from its cast.

Set following the 2019 election of the far-right Jair Bolsonaro as Brazil’s president, Marte Um follows a year in the life of the Martins family.

Mom Tércia (Rejane Faria) cleans houses, but the work fluctuates after a bizarre incident leaves her with undiagnosed PTSD. Dad Wellington (Carlos Francisco) is a custodian at a wealthy condo complex and is obsessed with his young son Deivinho’s (Cícero Lucas) potential soccer career. 

Deivinho, for his part, would rather study astronomy (he wants to go to Mars), but is afraid to tell his dad he no longer wants to play sports. Deivinho has an ally in his big sister Eunice (Camillia Damiāo), who he shares a bedroom with. Eunice, however, is at a crossroads in her own life after falling in love with a woman (Ana Hilārio) and considering the possibility of moving in with her.

Marte Um is episodic in nature. It becomes gradually more intertwined as the family’s individual arcs start to bump up against each other. There are plenty of slice-of-life arthouse movies that squander plots like this by languishing in the banality of its characters’ everyday lives—confusing lack of momentum for empathy. Gabriel Martins, fortunately, doesn’t do this. The family of Marte Um sees its character’s struggles the way they see them: not unique, but important nonetheles

Martins focuses tightly on his cast’s facial reactions to great effect, especially from Faria and Francisco.

In one scene, Wellington comes home to a family emergency in the midst of experiencing his own professional disaster. Martins focuses solely on Wellington’s face as his family members relay the news to him, their voices coming from out of frame. Instead of cutting between speakers, Martins remains locked on Wellington as he processes what’s going on—gradually building to an outburst of his own.

That kind of patient filmmaking defines Marte Um. The work projects clear affection for its cast and invites us to empathize with them. Even when the characters’ individual struggles aren’t fully acknowledged by the rest of the family, Martins sees their honesty and makes sure we do, too.

Marte Um (Mars One) screens at Liberty Hall this Saturday, Jan. 29, as part of the Sundance Film Festival Satellite Screening program.

Categories: Movies