By Sharon Calingasan
Director: Mariana Caltabiano
Rarely do you encounter someone as chameleon-like as Marcelo Nascimento. His is a case interesting enough to merit an in-depth study on his unique skill in duping people into believing he is someone other than himself, posing as a bus owner’s nephew, a policeman, a band guitarist, a pilot and a spotter for a Brazilian soccer team – to name but a few of the myriad of personalities he adopted with considerable success. Imagine: he even posed as a DJ and people were convinced; he was even said to be a highly acclaimed one. However, it was when he pretended to be the son of Gol Airlines’ owner that he was catapulted to popularity, fooling everyone including television presenter Amaury Jr., carnival sponsor Ed Sa and countless celebrities.
As the documentary unfolds, the viewer is immediately drawn to Marcelo for his bedimpled smile and boyish charm. There is a naughtiness that is somehow concealed but always threatening to spill out at any minute. What starts as a harmless attempt to pose as a bus owner’s nephew begins a cycle of endless pretensions and make-believe that any Hollywood actor would envy. He doesn’t have to entirely change his physical features and lifestyle to convince people; just his mere words are enough. Is hypnotism his forte? Does he indulge in some form of witchcraft or rituals? From the looks of it, there seems to be none of these involved. When the interviewer asks him how he was able to fool people, he answers without hesitation that it’s the same as what he’s doing with her, while they are conversing. He tells her that what he’s been saying all along to her may just all be lies, but that she believes what he says anyway. A very honest answer from someone who’s been there, done that.
Interviews with his mother and people with whom he has become acquainted over the years reveal facts of his mischievous self. His mother recounts how as a child he couldn’t stay still and was always bothering his classmates. His teachers gave up on him and he didn’t even pass fifth grade. At the age of 16, he was a constant fixture in the police station until eventually he learned their ways and language to the extent that he was able to fill out police reports and sign receipts. From this alone, it’s clear that he was someone that everyone at the police station trusted, everybody’s buddy – and who couldn’t be won over by his harmless demeanor and eloquent way with words? It even came to a point where he pretended to be a part of the Grupo Tigre, an anti-kidnapping operative where he made arrests. According to an ex-Grupo Tigre member, Mauricio Cezar, Marcelo was fearless but that, when he was discovered, he apologized to the person he masqueraded as and even claimed that he pretended to be him because of his great admiration for the guy. Clearly we are dealing with a very peculiar and intriguing state of mind.
But what started as a sort of child’s play would bring him into the public eye. While early on it may have been a harmless pretend game, his talent later led him to adopt “˜bad guy personalities’. He joined the army but was apprehended because he tried to auction Harvey bikes, and he posed as a pilot, which paved the way for him to transport drugs for some pertinent criminals under the name of “˜Ferrari’. Arrested and put into prison, he was still able to lead a protest among his fellow convicts and was incarcerated in 12 states, managing to escape from at least 9 of them.
How does one dissect a person as vague and complex as Marcelo? His mother tells the interviewer that he never went to church but always carried a rosary and that, when she told him to know the Bible by heart so he could build a church and get rich, Marcelo declined, saying that it’s not okay to play with God’s words. This response suggests that he has respect for his God and religion and yet his actions are a striking contradiction. Actor Ricardo Macchi, whom Marcelo got to know during the Recifolia carnival and the time he pretended to be the Gol Airlines owner’s son, attested that Marcelo had compassion and really wanted to help him with his career. Again, based on this anecdote, one can see a glimpse of a unique character. Speculations that he may be a psychopath or a sociopath don’t seem to fit with Marcelo’s behavior, since, though he embodies elements of these disorders, such as the extensive lying and pretensions, he also shows concern for others and wishes no harm. Meanwhile, Marcelo himself tells the interviewer that he is not a good person and that he’s paying the price for being a wayward one.
Caltabiano’s documentary, which interestingly blends animation with live footage and interviews, provides a crystal-clear portrait of Marcelo, his life, his mischievous ways and his desire to become a changed and reformed man. Pretending to be someone else was his ticket to travel and explore places. It earned him popularity, albeit notoriety. As it is, crime doesn’t pay and he served jail time for grave offenses ranging from fraud to drug dealing, among others. Surprisingly, among the film’s interviewees, there seems to be no sense of disgust towards Marcelo, with his various dupes instead expressing amazement and amusement towards the man and his obvious mastery at pretending to be someone else. For all his deceptions, something throughout his numerous personae remains constant: an innate charm, intelligence and positive disposition. All in all, the magnetic subject of VIPs: Real Stories of a Liar remains a hard nut to crack.
Watch VIPs: Real Stories of a Liar on FilmDoo.