Director Carla Gutiérrez says in an interview with EFE that ‘Frida’, the new documentary dedicated to surrealist painter Frida Kahlo, gives the late Mexican artist “an opportunity to tell her own story” by reviewing her most personal writings.
“I was interested in giving her the microphone so she could tell her most intimate experiences (…) We didn’t want to focus on all the details of her life, but on what she felt,” Gutiérrez reveals from the Sundance festival.
Originally from Peru, the filmmaker met Kahlo while studying in college “more than 20 years ago,” when she had just arrived as an immigrant to the United States.
Kahlo’s painting titled ‘Self-Portrait on the Border between Mexico and the United States’ resonated with her own experience in the North American country and since then she dedicated herself to getting to know all of her works.
“I saw that painting of Frida where she is standing between the United States and Mexico and I felt that I was reflected in it. I was a new immigrant, I was not having a welcoming experience in the United States and I missed my country, Peru, very much,” she says.
Gutiérrez assures that in every painting she saw of the artist she found “a piece” of herself and, based on those experiences and her personal connection, she decided to make the film that is now part of the U.S. documentary competition in this independent film contest.
The filmmaker, best known for her work as an editor, and her production team went through all of Kahlo’s writings that have been published in different collections, and with her words and descriptions from her diaries created the documentary’s narrative.
Another look at the artist’s life
Narrated with a voiceover, the film features genuine photographs and videos of the painter and mixes them with animation that deconstructs and animates Kahlo’s works to amplify the woman’s feelings, while creating new metaphors for her experiences.
“I think we are all looking for honest ways to express ourselves but we are still too afraid to do so, it’s not easy to talk about our pains and our emotional problems. She expressed them all in a brutal way, with a lot of color,” says Gutiérrez.
Throughout the documentary, Kahlo talks about her life, her relationship with her parents, the tragic accident that led her to paint, her first rebellious winks in her youth, her boundless love for her husband -also painter Diego Rivera- her political convictions and her “lively feelings”.
In addition, the project attempts to update the idea and concept of Kahlo, with a musical proposal that mixes the sounds of the Mexico of the 1930s in which the painter lived with more contemporary melodies.
“We were trying to break a little with the traditional and not musicalize it with archival material because she broke with many things and was very modern at the time. We wanted to support that and for it not to be seen only as a historical piece,” explains Mexican composer Víctor Hernández Stumpfhauser.
From his point of view, the film helps to rethink the true importance of the painter, whose image abounds in “souvenirs” and in some cases has been reduced only to an object.
“Frida is already a brand and I think the beauty of the documentary is that it brings us back to rediscover who Frida is, why she is who she is, and to take away a little of the marketing stuff to remember why she is so iconic,” said Hernández Stumpfhauser.
The film will continue to be screened at the festival, which runs through January 28 in Park City (Utah, USA), and will arrive on Amazon Prime Video on March 14.