The autobiographical documentary is a genre that is increasingly occupying a greater place in the wide universe of the so-called creative or author documentary. Perhaps this is due to its main characteristic: that the director is part and also character of the story, which allows him to use cinema and an intimate story as a vehicle to touch a more universal dimension.
If your first question is why should I see someone else's story? Here at Guidedoc we recommend five must-see films that will change your perception of the autobiographical style in documentary filmmaking.
Nobody's Business by Alan Berliner
Applause, shouts coming out of fans and the sound of the bell that announces a fight that is about to begin. This is how this film is presented to us by the renowned American director Alan Berliner, this time using cinema as an excuse to have a long and necessary conversation with his 85-year-old father, Oscar Berliner.
A son obsessed with knowing every detail of his story and a father who refuses to delve into the past. The removing force and the immovable object. In this work the filmmaker uses the foundfootage in an impeccable and meticulous way, which also transports us to the field of the personal, thus investigating the most intimate nooks and crannies of his family: the divorce of his parents. All this is impregnated with a sharp humor, something that many people would think is difficult to find in any long conversation with their father.
Tarachime (Birth-Maternity), by Naomi Kawase
This film is about the eternal life-death-life cycle, what we are constantly receiving and letting go, a central theme around which the whole story is constructed in a documentary that, without a doubt, we consider to be one of the most mature works of the filmmaker. A woman begins the process of gestation of her first child, Naomi herself, and it seems that, in order to advance in her new stage, it is necessary to heal the girl, the Naomi who for a long time felt abandoned because she had not been raised by her biological parents.
All this occurs simultaneously with the progressive physical and vital deterioration of her grandmother, the person who raised her, Uno Kawase. Life and death are two forces that gravitate in each of the images of this work. They sprout, like flowers sprout, and fall like autumn leaves do. Instinctive, sensory, raw and vulnerable.
Naomi Kawase literally and figuratively undresses herself in this documentary to create a third discourse; her own life, her own vital process, as a starting point to talk about the eternal life cycle that encompasses all that we are and what surrounds us.
Photographyc Memory by Ross Mcelwee
What would happen if, 20 years later, you could rediscover the loves and places of the past? This is what Mcelwee does in his latest film, an emotional road trip to the past of himself. The starting point is the relationship with his son Adrian, who is already 16 years old and with whom communication is becoming increasingly difficult.
This situation is a catapult for the filmmaker to initiate an intergenerational search that leads him to review the relationship with his father and the years of his youth. The first-person story that characterizes Mcelwee takes us for a in a journey to his personal life, the places where he lived, the things he once loved, his losses, those goodbyes that were said without much pretension and that ended up being definitive... and also his tireless search for romantic love.
This beautiful film is also a reflection on how we build our memory and the fragility of memories, all built with the lightness of everyday life.
With my heart in Yambo by María Fernanda Restrepo
On January 8, 1988, Santiago and Andrés Restrepo, two Colombian immigrants in Ecuador, 17 and 14 years-old respectively, disappear in incomprehensible and mysterious circumstances. That day, they had to look for their little sister at a party. Two decades later, María Fernanda Restrepo, that littler girl, after years of struggle along with her father, with whom she does an endless investigation leading to dead ends, decides to make this film to tell the painful and unjust events surrounding the disappearance and murder of her brothers.
This is the story of a broken and incomplete family portrait forever, and also of a deep emptiness in the face of political and human helplessness on the part of the Ecuadorian authorities. This is a film not to be forgotten, which also confirms that Santiago and Andrés did exist once. The energetic weight of the testimony itself is something imprinted on the film and that endows the documentary with a richness that is difficult to overcome. No one could tell this story better than the brothers' own sister with her own voice.
Stories We tell by Sarah Polley
This film is presented as an exquisite process of re-construction, as if it were a puzzle, about the life of Diane, Sarah Polley's mother. The filmmaker, who did not have the opportunity to grow up with her mother since she died very young, embarks on this journey starting from the need to know that person who gave her the gift of life, a person that everyone talks about but whom she did not really know.
The children, the husband, relatives, friends, all offer their own testimony and their contribution in the construction of this missing person as we discover her facet as a woman, mother, wife, and lover. Little by little the veil of idealization falls, and this is how the film manages to captivate us as it advances. We, at the same time as the filmmaker, discover who Diane was, a woman we humanize more with each testimony. So we also see her with her insecurities, her contradictions, her fears, her deep emptiness and her need for love... her secrets. It's exciting to see the turning points of this story and the way it revolutionizes the life of the director herself and her family. This is, above all, a filmmaker in search of her own truth.