When a documentary becomes a beautiful memory: our review of El Vendedor de orquídeas (special screening – out of competition”, Venezia 73).
For some it was a surprise when Desde allá won the 2015 Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival. It was, in a peculiar way, a difficult movie. Those who prefer to analyze technical contents or only cinematographic aspects of a product (both good in this case, however) missed what was, in my humble opinion, the most important and most original element of this movie: it strongly calls for empathy from the audience in order to understand characters’ thoughts and decisions. It does it through believable and psychologically accurate characters but avoiding to openly explain what they are thinking and feeling.
What was perceived as a limitation from some was exactly what made this movie so unique to me and the reason why I could hardly wait to see the new work of its director, Lorenzo Vigas, at Venezia 73.
This work is El Vendedor de Orquideas (The Orchid Seller, “out of competition” line-up), a documentary about Oswaldo Vigas, the director’s father and a renowned Venezuelan painter.
Documentaries are often found in the line-up of the Venice Film Festival, but rarely documentaries of this intensity: many directors, in fact, even when personally involved, choose to disclose someone else’s life objectively, often as outsiders, and they usually do it to show the genious who coexists with the man they are talking about. It is what happened in Venice 73 too, with David Lynch: The Art Life and Franca: Chaos and Creation. Both interesting documentaries about two people we were all curious to discover (and ended up admiring even more) but that kept a certain distance between us, the audience, and them, the protagonists.
Here we have something completely different: a director who wants the audience to discover not why the world should remember an admirable painter but why he will always remember his father. It is personal, and because of this, it has the ability to really touch the single viewer: if I think about my father, I too would like people to see him exactly as I see him, with his pecularities, his obsessions, his trademark expressions and catchphrases, the immense love and sensitivity he takes with him everywhere he goes. And that is what El Vendedor de Orquideas does: it leads you inside the soul of someone else and, in doing so, shows you humanity at its most beautiful expression, in the everyday life of a man and his wife who are not very different from any of us.
While in the theatre, I realized I was not watching this documentary with the same eyes I had watched similar works previously. It was simply impossible. What I was experiencing was more akin to a gift that director Lorenzo Vigas was giving to his audience.
And from Vigas’ words during the Q&A we know that sharing this almost spiritual memory with us must have cost him a lot, in term of feelings and pain. Yet it meant something. Rarely we have to chance to be something more than viewers, the chance to be witnesses: and for this, we can only be grateful to this author and the incredible and moving way he is able to capture human nature, even – and especially – the one of someone so close to him.
El Vendedor de Orquideas (2016) is a documentary directed by Lorenzo Vigas with Oswaldo Vigas and Jeannine Castes Vigas.
Official website of the Oswaldo Vigas Foundation can be found at this link.
by Agnese Pietrobon