Hot Docs 2016 Review: “The Legacy of Frida Kahlo” (2016) ★★


I jumped for joy when I saw the title “The Legacy of Frida Kahlo” planned to be screened as part of the Canadian International Documentary Film Festival in Toronto. As a person who admires Kahlo’s paintings and understands the whole pain she had to go through most of her life, and read her diary like five times, Tadasuke Kotani’s film raised my spirit as I was about to see something truly incredible. But after twenty minutes of watching it, my happiness slowly disappeared and was left behind with only a feeling of disappointment and confusion over whether this film was ever meant to be dedicated to Frida Kahlo or the photographer Miyako Ishiuchi?

First of all, I don’t want anyone to get me wrong here, as my intention is not to write a negative review, but provide a fair analysis of the film I expected to see. Perhaps, I should have not expected much more from this film than it intended to deliver. Perhaps, it was me who could not understand the filmmaker’s point of view and the idea of making this film at all. Yes, it was somewhat about Frida Kahlo. We do see her house where she used to live, and get some decent explanation of her personal life which we already knew.

But the rest of the film was mainly filmed outside of the house where we have to stare at the scenes that had nothing to do with Frida Kahlo at all. It is also understandable the filmmaker’s intention here to cover a particular part of Miyako Ishiuchi’s trip that somehow she found relevant to this story. But thinking of the title of this film, we should not get from this film anything else other than Frida Kahlo.

As the film unfolds, you will get a chance to see some personal belongings of Kahlo, her paintings and the corset she had to wear to maintain and control her chronic back pains due to an accident it happened when she was a teenager. You also will get an opportunity to learn some interesting facts about Frida and Diego Rivera, whose love story will never be forgotten. In the meantime, the film itself suffers significantly from a lack of information that seemed nobody knew much, as it clearly was seen that the photographer herself slowly discovers facts about Frida she never knew before.

In conclusion, “The Legacy of Frida Kahlo” is not a terrible documentary film. But it has issues with the narrative that somehow can’t connect the dots. If you do not know much about Frida Kahlo, then you will certainly be satisfied after you watch this film. But in case you are aware of Frida’s life, the messages her paintings contained, then you better skip this film and watch “Frida” starring Salma Hayek as it’s more informative than Tadasuke Kotani’s film.


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