Magazine article Screen International

‘Summer 1993’: Berlin Review

Magazine article Screen International

‘Summer 1993’: Berlin Review

Article excerpt

Winner of the debut prize at the Berlinale, Catalan director Carla Simón's story about an orphaned six year-old girl is authentic and memorable

Dir/scr. Carla Simón. Spain, 2017, 96 mins.

It might be with a child's eyes that Summer 1993 relates the efforts of a six year-old trying to cope with grief, but it is with maturity, empathy and heartfelt emotion that it conveys the uncertain reality that follows. Entered in the Berlinale's Generation Kplus sidebar but winner of the festival's overall best first feature award, Catalan director Carla Simon's debut is both tender and determined as it relates a tale of a young orphan trying to fit in with a new family. Its affectionate but yearning sentiment should see further festival success follow at a minimum.

Death, life and the tumult of those placed between the two extremes are Frida's (Laia Artigas) daily concern - or, they would be if she was any older or more experienced in anything other than being a child. Overcoming the loss of one's parents, coming of age in heightened circumstances and finding a place to belong are somewhat standard narrative elements, particularly in a film predicated upon harsh truths giving way to gradual life lessons, and yet Summer 1993 shows that even seemingly familiar stories can be seen anew.

Here, in a project that came through Berlinale Talents in 2015, the wise-beyond-her-years Frida knows that she wants something other than a struggling existence in the shadow of grief, largely pretending that all is well at her new home with her uncle Esteve (David Verdaguer, 10,000km), aunt Marga (Bruna Cusi), and toddler cousin Anna (Paula Robles), while letting her true feelings seep out when she's alone. While her extreme youth isn't a cure for an identity-redefining loss, it does help Frida tackle her situation with a practical and resilient outlook.

That perception - peering at everything in sight with a clear but questioning gaze that constantly holds the viewer's attention - gives Summer 1993 its strength. …

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