It won’t spoil the film to tell you Gabriel dies in the end. Actually, he dies (or is found dead) in the beginning, his lifeless body nestled in a cave on a steep Malawian hill. Over the next two hours, the story of how Gabriel ended up on that hill slowly unspools before you.
Created by Fellipe Gamarano Barbosa, Gabriel on the Mountain tells the true story of Gabriel Buchmann, a young Brazilian who spent a year traveling around the globe, disappearing before his body was found in 2009. Barbosa, Buchmann's friend in real life, recreates his pal's last months on Earth, as Gabriel hunted with Maasai warriors, climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro, reunited—and bickered—with his girlfriend, at times deeply in love but at times, like all couples, deeply annoyed.
Other than Gabriel, who is played by João Pedro Zappa, and his girlfriend Cristina (played by Caroline Abras), all of the other "actors" are people who knew Garbriel in real life. In this way, the film is as much a documentary as a narrative, and it gives the story extra power: When you hear someone mourn Gabriel's death or recount their meeting, it feels real, because it is.
Travel can be mundane, boring, especially to those watching it and not doing it themselves, and Barbosa captures the contradictions of both Gabriel and his journey well. Gabriel a tourist who wants to be a local; a Western in Maasai clothing, a visitor who feels like he belongs. He's at time charming, at time insufferable, and Barbosa does a remarkable job keeping the viewer interested in a story that's essentially just a travelogue, albeit a travelogue with a tragic, and true to life, end.
Gabriel on the Mountain screens July 6 (tonight) through next Thurs., July 12. For more Seattle screenings happening this weekend and in the near future, visit our Movie Times page.