Memoir cinema quite often has its pitfalls. Autobiography, and its claim to veracity, can sometimes seem self-aggrandizing or self-indulgent with its presentation of the truth running the risk of embellishment.
In Carla Simón’s autobiographical first feature, she recounts the childhood summer in which she moved to the Catalonian countryside after the death of her parents. A painful yet poignant memoir, Summer 1993 is told from the perspective of the impressionable young Frida (Laia Artigas), stigmatised by society following her mother’s contraction of AIDS.
There is nothing to suggest that what we are watching is far removed from that which happened 24 years ago. Simón is honest, even though such honesty quite often does not portray her in a flattering light. Experiencing difficulty readjusting to her new family, and jealous of her uncle’s love for his daughter, Frida attempts to remove her young cousin from the picture by hiding her in the nearby woods. The six-year-old’s logic is flawless; watching this unravel is heart-breaking.
Simón’s technique lies in nothing that is really said but rather what is suggested. Although the AIDS epidemic is never clearly stated, the effect it has on a small rural community and on intimate family dynamics is evident throughout.
In every shot, Simón effects as much emotion from the audience as possible. The impressionistic childhood perspective is never a hindrance; rather the story told by Frida’s silent yet knowing expressions never falters in its intensity.
As well as impressing with her artistic merits, Carla Simón’s debut stands out as an incredible act of bravery. Remembering BFI Flare highlight Memories of a Penitent Heart and anticipating Robin Campillo’s 120 Beats Per Minute – also at this year’s LFF – we direct our praise to the programmers of these challenging films.
CAST: Laia Artigas, Paula Blanco, Etna Campillo, Bruna Cusí
DIRECTOR: Carla Simón
WRITER: Carla Simón
SYNOPSIS: After her mother’s death, six-year-old Frida is sent to her uncle’s family to live with them in the countryside. But Frida finds it hard to forget her mother and adapt to her new life.