By Angie Driscoll – HotDocs – 4/1/2012
Twenty years ago, Elena, a young Brazilian actress, sought success in the bright lights of New York City. Petra follows in her big sister’s footsteps, searching the foggy city streets for a connection to her troubled sibling. She looks for traces of Elena everywhere. Not only are both women thespians, but they could be twins. On screen, Petra and Elena merge fluidly, like water, until one is the other. Acting is the ultimate act of submersion, a delicate process of losing and finding yourself in someone else, and filmmaker Petra Costa captures that spirit completely. Like a pebble hitting the surface of a pond, when Elena is finally discovered, it sends out waves of emotion that seem to gain amplitude the farther they ripple out. Two decades dissolve into two seconds, and suddenly you’re in the moment, in the void. Elena is a devastatingly beautiful piece of cinema, and a transcendent tribute.