Connect with us

Movie Reviews

Sundance 2024 – Frida ★★★★



Released: 2024 (Sundance Film Festival)

Director: Carla Gutierrez

Nearly 70 years after her death, Frida Kahlo is considered one of the most recognisable artists in the modern world. Known for her distinctive appearance and surrealist works, her ability to vividly capture herself on canvas is celebrated worldwide. Her life has already inspired an Academy Award-nominated biopic, starring Salma Hayek, but now, RBG director Carla Gutierrez has reunited with producers Betsy West and Julie Cohen to deliver Frida, a documentary about the famed Mexican artist.

At first glance, it is easy to see the comparisons between the documentary and the 2002 biopic – both chart Kahlo’s life from her youth (during which she suffered life-changing injuries during a tram accident) to her tumultuous marriage with Mexican artist Diego Rivera, and both use Frida’s famed works as a narrative element to elevate the personal hardships she suffered. But while the biopic seemingly focuses on her personal relationships, Gutierrez chooses to create a deeper and more forthright insight into Kahlo’s life.

Thanks to archive footage taken throughout Kahlo’s life, Gutierrez takes the time to build the artist’s love of Mexico and its rich culture through her appreciation of the colours that would later adorn her works. The director highlights the key life events in Kahlo’s life, subtly referencing her (and Rivera’s) connections with communism so it doesn’t become a noticeable talking point. Instead, Gutierrez focuses on how the artist saw the world, so it becomes more of a love letter to her unique vision.

Complementing the poetic animation is the considerate use of photos, video and excerpts from Kahlo’s diary, which allow the voiceover cast to convey an extra level of emotion and realism behind her words. The narrated excerpts, in particular, sees her bare her heart and soul through light humour, occasional mockery and unapologetic bluntness, whether it is her contempt towards affluent Americans or her feelings for friends, family or lovers. However, the documentary doesn’t diffuse her heartbreak with glamour or incessant dialogue – instead, it exposes Kahlo’s melancholic and contemplative moments so audiences can see past the rebellious and spirited persona she is known for. Even during the darkest times of her life, there is a brutal honesty richly complementing the boldness of Kahlo’s famed works, enabling Gutierrez’s documentary to form a multi-sensory experience.

Frida Kahlo once said that “she paints because she needs to”, and it may have not been for fame or fortune but it was how she was able to translate her perspective of the world to others. She may not have set out to be an artist but her work has inspired many others after her death – just like a great artist.

Gutierrez’s beautifully poignant documentary sets out to celebrate Kahlo’s works and heritage yet delivers a rawness that turns Frida into more than just a film but a door into Kahlo’s memories, and her vibrant and inimitable world.

Just For You