By Merle Bertrand | February 21, 2000

The title is taken from the gate of a cemetery located in a small Brazilian town; its message a grim bit of humor that somehow seems appropriate for the so-often destructive 20th century this unusual film-essay chronicles. “Here We Are…” sets archival footage of the past century’s most famous events to a haunting soundtrack and combines and/or juxtaposes that footage with famous quotations, historical factoids, and brief text anecdotes about the famous and not so famous people who lived and died then. The result is an elegant and powerful documentary about the most eventful century of our existence. What should have been an integral part of CNN’s gazillion hours of millennium coverage should now be mandatory viewing for today’s high school and college kids. Too bad it’s fake. A fraud. A historic “Zelig.” Although this mesmerizing film uses 95% archival footage, the ruse comes with the stories and the people. Director Marcelo Masagao seamlessly mixes fact and fiction — a manufactured detail describes a real person here, a real quote attributed to a fictional person there, etc. — to weave this lush and thought-provoking historical tapestry. It’s a frustrating deception because it seems so unnecessary and arrogant. Wouldn’t a real tidbit have worked as well as Masagao’s fiction? Were real people somehow not as interesting as those he created? Ultimately, the film’s iconoclastic images are so seductive and the way they’ve been combined so unforgettable, that the viewer grudgingly accepts these historical asterisks, reconciling himself to the manufactured falsities in this biography of a century like he’d wink and nod at a biography that’s perhaps shaky on some of the details. It helps that the viewer knows he’s getting some subtle revenge. For even though Masagao cynically intended “Here We Are Waiting For You” to be a documentary that explores the banality of life and death, he’s inadvertently made one that celebrates its resolute nobility instead.

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