Hot Docs 2013: “Elena” projects poetry on the screen


Co-presented with BRAFFTV – Brazilian Film and TV Festival.

By Ingrid Coifman

Film director and actress Petra Costa brings her documentary “Elena” to the Hot Docs 2013, following other successful international screenings and awards such as Audience Award & Best Documentary at the 45th Brasilia Film Festival 2012, Special Mentions at the 9th ZagrebDox International Competition and the 28th Guadalajara Film Festival, and Best Documentary Feature at Films de Femmes 2013.

The story is about Elena, a young Brazilian woman who travels to New York with the same dream as her mother: to become a movie actress. She also leaves Petra, her seven year old sister.

Two decades later, Petra also becomes an actress and goes to New York in search of Elena. She only has a few clues about her: home movies, newspaper clippings, a diary and letters. Gradually, the two sisters are confused and the audience can no longer tell one from the other.

The documentary has already been acclaimed by well-known Brazilian directors Walter Salles (“Central Station”) and Fernando Meirelles (“City of God”). Petra uses intimate personal experiences as her raw material, featuring her sister, Elena, who died when she was seven. Petra said that she came to know Elena more deeply only ten years later, when developing a theater workshop. She found one of Elena’s diaries and start identifying completely with her big sister, learning that she had gone through the same things at the same age.

Before making Elena, Petra directed and produced the short film ‘Olhos de Ressaca’ (Undertow Eyes), a depiction of love and aging as seen from the perspective of her grandparents. In 2009, the short film won prizes such as Best Short Film in the London International Documentary Film Festival, Best Short Documentary in Cine Las Americas and Special Jury Prize in the Gramado Festival.

The 20th edition of Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival, North America’s largest documentary festival, conference and market, takes place from April 25 to May 5, 2013 in Toronto. This year’s Festival will screen 205 docs from 43 countries.

Service: Elena is co-presented with BRAFFTV – Brazilian Film and TV Festival.

Screenings: April 26th at 8:30pm (TIFF Bell LightBox 2), April 27th at 11:30am (Rom), and May 5th at 1pm (Rom). More info:


Ingrid Coifman

Ingrid is a journalist who specializes in technology, economics, and tourism, having in her portfolio Culture TV, CBN Radio, McDonalds and Microsoft.

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