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GABRIEL AND THE MOUNTAIN gets 6.5/10 Uphill and downhill

Directed by Fellipe Barbosa
Starring João Pedro Zappa, Caroline Abras


Fiction and nonfiction merge in this fascinating (if sometimes unengaging) true story of Gabriel Buchmann, a determined traveller of Africa who wanted to tackle both the continent’s poverty and its great mountains, but ultimately succumbed to the brutal nature of their awe-inspiring, yet death-defying magnitude.

Director Fellipe Barbosa has put together this filmic document of his childhood friend, casting even many of the real-life acquaintances as themselves. It’s an extraordinary and authentic tribute to this man, whilst not feeling the need to always paint him in the most hagiographic light. Gabriel (João Pedro Zappa) is portrayed as a nice man, but also as someone who understandably feels the pressures of navigating his way through the various unfamiliar countries.

This fairly lengthy film is split into four chapters, each based on which country he is in, which makes it easier to state which parts are the best – the first and last chapters are more focused and feature more Herzogian themes of man trying to tackle and tame nature (with various results), yet the middle two chapters are meandering and feel like missed opportunities for presenting this real-life explorer.

After conquering nature with the help of some experts, the tale of this man testing his physical limits comes to a halt when he is reunited with his girlfriend, Cristina (Caroline Abras), who follows him for some time on his travels. It seems like from here the film goes through Gabriel and Cristina’s journeys, but without much narrative or dramatic drive, instead serving us a number of vignettes that have no cumulative purpose.

Although there are physical and mental obstacles for him to overcome in the first and last chapters, the only real conflict in the middle chapters is Gabriel wondering whether the areas he’s visiting are too touristy for his liking. It’s an amusing little theme to include in this tale of a global traveller, but it’s not consistent enough to make an impression, neither is any other theme that may be present during this time of the film – not even the philanthropy work that Gabriel is trying to accomplish.

Gabriel and the Mountain is a suitably earthly film, featuring some gorgeous areas that are respectfully filmed in equally gorgeous palettes. Although it begins and ends with a strong sense of exploratory wonder, this tribute to the real life man falters at finding a core facet of him to focus on.


Gabriel and the Mountain plays at UWA Somerville from Monday, March 19 to Sunday, March 25, 7:30pm, and at ECU Joondalup Pines from Tuesday, March 27 to Thursday, March 29, & Saturday, 31 March to Sunday 1 April, 7:30pm.

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