Documentary - Post-Production 2017

In a letter to her father, the filmmaker tries to understand a mother-child relationship crossed by the violence of Brazilian Military Dictatorship during the 60's.

& Awards

DocMontevideo 2015
Pitching Documental (Development)
Guadalajara FICG 2017
Doculab.9 (Rough Cut Lab)
    • Year of production
    • 2017
    • Genres
    • Documentary, First film
    • Countries
    • BRAZIL
    • Languages
    • Budget
    • 0.3 - 0.6 M$
    • Duration
    • 80 mn
    • Director(s)
    • Carol BENJAMIN
    • Writer(s)
    • Carol BENJAMIN, Rita TOLEDO
    • Producer(s)
    • Carol BENJAMIN (Daza Filmes), Rita TOLEDO (Daza Filmes), Leandra LEAL (Daza Filmes)
    • Synopsis
    • “A Mother’s Calling” addresses the different paths taken by my father and my grandmother in dealing with a trauma. I was born in 1983, into a family radically crossed by the Brazilian Military Dictatorship (1964-1985). At that time, my grandmother was already divorced from my grandfather, an Army colonel with whom I had almost no contact. My father, Cesar Benjamin, had been a revolutionary imprisoned at age 17, kept for almost 4 years in solitary jail. After a long battle, he was exiled in Sweden, where he stayed until the Amnesty Law was promulgated in 1979. His mother Iramaya was the founder of the Brazilian Committee for Amnesty and fought bravely against the regime, while his father Ney got retired from the Army and gave in to the alcohol and depression. That’s the story I’ve heard all my life.

      As I grew up, I realized Cesar and Iramaya took on different paths dealing with the past: whilst he granted very few interviews about his time as a political prisoner and rarely spoke about that period, she became the memory’s keeper, the “Mother of Brazilian Amnesty”. These two extremes reached a peak after Iramaya’s passing in 2012, the same year I became a mother. Confronted with an overpowering silence that started to echo loudly within me, I initiated a search. An important lead in this search was Marianne Eyre, an Amnesty International Swedish employee who had played a key role in Cesar’s release and with whom Iramaya developed a life long friendship. I traveled to Sweden in 2012 to meet Marianne, who unveiled a box of letters written by Iramaya for 36 years (1972 – 2008). The letters from the post-struggle period show Iramaya’s conflicts and frailties, her quest for herself and the ambivalence of a mother happy to see her son finally free and the emptiness that his freedom imposed on her.

      The years of struggle, though bleak and desperate, launched Iramaya to a prominence position rarely occupied by women at that time in Brazil. She quit being a quiet housewife when my dad’s ordeal in the hands of the dictatorship started. She became his voice, while he was forced into a solitary cell. This unbalance resonated in Iramaya and Cesar’s relationship afterwards: as time passed, she turned into the narrator of his fate, sharing with everyone her decisive role in his life, whereas he kept on being driven to a more specific silence: the silence of Iramaya’s part in his own history. And he decided not to take part in my film. After watching all the rough material of the few interviews César gave about the dictatorship period – all of them after Iramaya's passing – I realized that he never mentions her. Throughout all his speeches, many of them detailed and emotional, there is no reference to her name. Through this film, I feel the need to investigate why. “A Mother’s Calling” is a letter from me to my father in which I try to rebuild a memory of a family that, after the violence of the Dictatorship on, has never been the same.
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