What We’re Loving: Genealogy, Pathogenecity, Bloomsbury

By Chantal McStay – The Paris Review – 6/6/2014

In anticipation of next week’s World Cup, I recommend a striking and powerful Brazilian film, Petra Costa’s Elena. The most-watched documentary in Brazil last year, the film had its American release last week. It depicts Costa revisiting the charged locations and documents of the life of her older sister, Elena, who committed suicide after moving from Brazil to New York to become an actress. Costa culls material from her past, including a vast archive of her sister’s homemade videos, and interweaves it with new footage of herself and her family exploring the lost world of Elena to craft a profoundly personal and artful cinematic memoir. The editing brilliantly tangles the images of the two sisters, illuminating their shared aesthetics as well as their ultimately divergent paths. One scene that really struck me, in the way it pushes the boundary between documentary and constructed fiction, features dozens of Ophelia-esque female figures floating in the water in Brazil, capturing how, in Costa’s words, “pain and grievance turn to water … dissolved into memory.” —



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