‘Gabriel and the Mountain’ explores a subtle way to talk about death

The last days of Gabriel Buchmann, a Brazilian backpacker, are recreated in this True/False film.


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Gabriel and the Mountain is a film that eases your soul by following Gabriel Buchmann’s last steps through his journey in Africa. The film opens with the audience watching his final moments, and knowing they were well-spent calms the conscience.

Buchmann, a Brazilian student who was backpacking for a year before going to graduate school, died near the end of his trip at his last destination, during his last mountain excursion on Mount Mulanje. But that is not what the film is about. It focuses on Buchmann’s mission through East Africa, helping locals as much as he can, always (well, mostly) with a smile on his face. One of his main lines is that he is a traveller, not a tourist.

The narrative is also divided in four chapters, one for each country where he travels: Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia and Malawi. Each place has a new set of characters and a different vibe to it, affecting Gabriel in a variety of ways.

Although Buchmann is played by the actor João Pedro Zappa and his girlfriend Cristina is played by Caroline Abras, everything else is mostly non-fictional, from the places he visited to the stories told. Even the people he interacted with, from village locals to the men who found his body on the mountain, are acting as themselves in the movie, showing the brilliant work of the director and producers in finding all of these people. One of Zappa’s main outfits, a Kenyan warrior costume, was worn by Buchmann during his trip.

During the Q&A, director Fellipe Barbosa said the film was more than a way to honor Buchmann’s life; it was also a goodbye to an old friend. They studied together in high school and lost touch in college.

Overall, Gabriel and the Mountain talks about death, human relationships from dating to philanthropy and diversity in an unexpected but light and beautiful way.

Edited by Brooke Collier | bcollier@themaneater.com

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