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Elena

Review by Richard Brody – The New Yorker – 6/2/2014

This personal documentary by the Brazilian filmmaker Petra Costa unfolds a story of grief and thwarted promise with expressive urgency and thoughtful restraint. Its subject is the director’s older sister, Elena Andrade, who, as a teen-ager in the family’s home town of Belo Horizonte, exhibited prodigious talent as an actress and went to New York in pursuit of a movie career. She soon went home disappointed, but returned to Manhattan—with the seven-year-old Petra and their mother in tow—to study. There, she was engulfed by clinical depression, which drove her to self-destruction. Using archival footage of Elena in performance, home videos shot by Elena herself, and interviews with family members and others, Costa restores her sister to the world of art, to the scene of her love and torment. Their parents’ backstory—fusing cultural and political ambition with the currents of history—brings the action to the present day; Costa’s ritual of mourning, on both sides of the camera, fulfills the family’s cinematic dreams with a self-dramatizing flair.

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Elena

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