It Runs in the Family review – heartfelt tribute from one film-maker to another

Last Updated: June 21, 2024By

Uncovering Family Secrets: A Personal Journey on Film


Exploring a New Wave

Essay films and documentaries have taken on a new flavor in recent years. Gone are the days of conventional storytelling; now, it’s all about the experimental, freestyling approach. Think Chris Marker’s Sans Soleil or Agnès Varda’s The Gleaners and I. But what’s got everyone talking lately is the rise of the sprawling poetic-realist subgenre, particularly on the vibrant stages of film festivals.

A Personal Touch

It’s like a creative-writing mantra come to life: “write what you know.” Young documentary-makers are taking this advice to heart, delving not only into their own lives but also into their family histories. Picture this: relatives roped into the drama, playing themselves or each other, in what feels like a cinematic family therapy session.

From the Heart

Take Miryam Charles’s recent work, Cette Maison, or Moroccan director Asmae el Moudir’s The Mother of All Lies. Both delve deep into the traumas of their directors’ families. And now, joining their ranks, is Victoria Linares Villegas. A Dominican filmmaker on a quest to unearth the legacy of her second cousin, Oscar Torres.


Uncovering the Past

Oscar Torres, a figure somewhat forgotten in the annals of film history, left his mark in the Dominican Republic before fleeing to Cuba in the shadow of dictator Rafael Trujillo. His films celebrated the common man, his critiques praised the neo-realists. But there’s more to the story.

A Personal Connection

Victoria’s journey is not just about Oscar’s work; it’s about his personal journey, too. As she digs deeper, she uncovers a truth that resonates with her own life: Oscar was bisexual. A revelation that strikes a chord with Victoria, herself a lesbian.

Family Ties

As the film progresses, Victoria convinces her family to break their silence about Oscar. Together, they breathe life into his unwritten stage plays. Sure, it veers towards melodrama, but there’s a charm in the amateur performances that adds a touch of authenticity.

A Cinematic Tapestry

Victoria’s storytelling is not bound by convention. Painterly cutout animation and unconventional editing techniques weave through the narrative, creating a dreamlike atmosphere. It may not reach the eccentric heights of Cette Maison, but it’s sincere, personal cinema with a voice all its own.

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