Shadows Film FestShadows off the beaten path
Indies, foreign, docs and shorts...


< <
D O C S > >

See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL | Last update 27.Sep.23

The Eternal Memory   La Memoria Infinita
Review by Rich Cline | 4/5     MUST must see SEE
The Eternal Memory
dir-scr Maite Alberdi
prd Maite Alberdi, Rocio Jadue, Juan de Dios Larrain, Pablo Larrain, Andrea Undurraga
with Augusto Gongora, Paulina Urrutia, Raul Ruiz, Pedro Lemebel
release US Jan.23 sff,
Chl 24.Aug.23, UK Oct.23 lff
23/Chile 1h25

london film fest

Now streaming...

Urrutia and Gongora
This documentary about the nature of memory works on several powerfully moving layers, exploring the importance of maintaining a truthful account of history through the lens of a couple grappling with the effects of dementia. The film is also a ravishing real-life love story, shot largely by the couple themselves, with extensive new and archival footage. And gifted Chilean director Maite Alberdi assembles it to beautifully offbeat human rhythms.
In his retirement, Augusto knows he has Alzheimer's, while his wife Paulina is determined to help him live his best life. This isn't always easy, but she reminds him about his two children and his career as a journalist documenting life in 1970s and 1980s Chile while Pinochet's government was trying to rewrite history. An actress, Paulina also involves Augusto in her stage work. But at night, when he wakes in a bewildered panic about officials persecuting him, she finds it increasingly difficult to help him remember that he's now safe in his own house.
Much of the footage is shot by Patricia herself from odd angles that are out of focus, which adds a jolt of intimacy and authenticity to the material. Her cheerfully patient manor and openly smiling face continually reveal the deep love she has for Augusto, and his hilarious replies show that the feelings are mutual. Their banter reverberates with humour and camaraderie, so the moments when Augusto forgets who Patricia is, or who he is in a mirror, have a heartbreaking impact. But Patricia never loses her smile, even with tears streaming down her face.

Alberdi cleverly flickers away from these close-up moments to archival clips, most notably Augusto's reports about the true situation in Chile during these turbulent years. This includes his riveting speech about how important it is to retain emotional history alongside facts and figures. There are also wonderful snapshots and footage of the family over the years, including key events and offhanded playful moments, plus pristine newly filmed scenes of Augusto and Patricia in their family home.

All of this material swirls together to provide an unusually astute portrait of this couple, their relationship and their importance to their country's historical narrative. With its homemade camerawork and free-association structure, this is a fresh, engaging and hugely involving documentary that has something important to say about how various aspects of memory play into our sense of identity on both personal and national levels.

cert 12 themes, language 5.Oct.23 lff

In Restless Dreams: The Music of Paul Simon  
Review by Rich Cline | 4.5/5   MUST must see SEE
A Life on the Farm
dir Alex Gibney
prd Alex Gibney, Erin Edeiken, David Rahtz, Svetlana Zill
with Paul Simon, Edie Brickell, Wynton Marsalis, Kyle Crusham, Art Garfunkel, Carrie Fisher
release UK Oct.23 lff
23/US 1h39

london film fest

Now streaming...

A musician of this stature deserves an epic documentary, and Alex Gibney takes an ambitiously artistic approach to Paul Simon's life and career. At three and a half hours, watching it is like binging a series, but on a big screen it's fully engulfing, thanks to the intimate approach and elaborate sound mix. This is a transcendent film packed with great archive footage, fantastic music and Simon's raw humanity.
In Texas, Simon is recording his new album Seven Psalms, a spiritual exploration that was inspired in dreams and involves collaboration with a range of gifted musicians. This is just the latest chapter after his indelible work with childhood friend Art Garfunkel in the 1960s and 70s, gorgeous solo projects in the 80s and now iconic dive into world music in the 90s. Along the way, he also made many memorable appearances on Saturday Night Live, performed some of the biggest concerts in history and took on global politics in his own ingenious way.
Fans will love the performance clips that add to the stories surrounding each of Simon's most iconic songs. And Simon's running commentary, along with archival interview material from Garfunkel and others broadens the perspective. This sharply depicts Simon's grounded approach to life, and a vulnerability that allows him to be seen warts and all, with no regrets. Watching him follow the music to discover something groundbreaking is a fascinating angle on the creative process.

There's a sense that Gibney takes this same approach in assembling the film, using the Seven Psalms recording sessions as a framework on which to hang a chronological narrative divided into two “verses”: Simon's duo and solo years. And the extended running time offers a chance to include not only a huge amount of music but also key sideplots involving Simon's complex relationship with Garfunkel, his marriages to Carrie Fisher and Edie Brickell, and his work in film and television.

All of this has pointed resonance in the context of these spiritual new songs. And running through everything, the film is tracing Simon's own personal journey from childhood in Queens through distinct chapters of fame in the folksy 1960s and starry 1970s to becoming a champion of global artists who isn't afraid to challenge the powers that be or reveal his soul. And it's properly cinematic, so there's real power in seeing this presented in a single sitting with a communal audience.

cert pg themes, language 7.Oct.23 lff

Smoke Sauna Sisterhood   Savvusanna Sõsarad
Review by Rich Cline | 4/5  
Smoke Sauna Sisterhood
dir-scr Anna Hints
prd Marianne Ostrat
with Kadi Kivilo, Maria Meresaar, Elsa Saks, Marianne Liiv, Eva Kubar, Liis Kuresoo, Eda Veeroja, Maria Aasa, Merit Kask, Leno Kuura, Kerttu Kuslap, Sandra Lepik
release US Jan.23 sff,
Est 24.Mar.23, UK Oct.23 ff
23/Estonia 1h29

fragments fest

Now streaming...

Smoke Sauna Sisterhood
Immersive and visceral, this documentary takes the audience into the intimate setting of a smoke sauna in southeast Estonia. In addition to capturing cultural traditions, filmmaker Anna Hints is provocatively exploring the nature of being a woman in society, including a range of big issues. It may sometimes meander into metaphysical swirliness, but this is a remarkable depiction of the importance of having a profound human connection with no barriers.
On a snow-covered lake, a woman cuts a square in the ice then lights a fire that fills her sauna with smoke throughout the day. After letting the smoke out, she joins other women to greet the sauna and enjoy the steamy heat on their bare skin. Their bonding is initially silent, simply sharing the space and brushing each others' backs. After warming through, they take a dip in the icy water and have a snow fight before heading back inside to continue washing and chatting. It's a ritual that heals the body and soul.
Instead of interviews, the camera catches their conversations as they speak about their lives, sharing stories and personal feelings. One comments about how as a child the smoke sauna was the centre of life, remembering the woman who would produce scissors to cut her hair. They laugh about sex, their families and the pressures they have felt about relationships and children. More serious discussions are open and honest, such as talking about the emotions of going through a breast cancer diagnosis.

The film is beautifully shot, largely in extreme closeup as these women sprinkle water on the embers or whack each other with birch leaves. Sometimes they simply lounge naked in the grass singing. They speak with relaxed honesty, laughing warmly and listening intently while sharing a range of engaging anecdotes and observations on everything from birth to death, including a harrowing account of a rape. Beyond the sauna, the camera captures other social gatherings, with food, folk music and dancing.

Issues of body positivity echo throughout the conversations, speaking about watching older sisters developing while they waited, or realising they had the wrong shape to be, for example, a ballerina. One woman discusses discovering that she's gay and the complexities of telling her family. And they share a lot of comments about the power men try to wield over their bodies and lives. Cut off from the world, these woman are able to reassure each other, celebrate their strength and sweat out the pain and fear.

cert 15 themes, language 26.Sep.23

Send Shadows your reviews!

< < D O C S > >

© 2023 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall