This feature documentary from Brazilian auteur Kleber Mendonça Filho is a playful, joyous, and irresistible celebration of cinema and the filmmaker’s home city of Recife.
Pictures of Ghosts
Kleber Mendonça Filho
Brazilian auteur Kleber Mendonça Filho returns to the Festival with Pictures of Ghosts, a playful, joyous, and irresistible celebration of cinema and the filmmaker’s home city of Recife. A critic turned filmmaker, Mendonça Filho’s dedicated cinephilia has always been given space in his features. Here, it takes centre stage, in a tripartite essay film that looks at the places of cinema where he grew up and continues to reside. The seaside metropole — setting of his Festival selection Aquarius (TIFF ’16) and his breakthrough debut, Neighbouring Sounds — serves as a lens through which he reflects on his relationship with his mother, his family home, the city’s former picture palaces, the more-than-metaphorical link between cinema-going and religion, and more.
With this sly and intimate yet expansive work, Mendonça Filho is capable of historical diversions without ever abandoning his central pathos, while at the same time avoiding pitfalls of sentimentalism or empty nostalgia. Whether riffing on architecture, gentrification, the merits of genre cinema, or Nazi ties to the history of Brazilian film distribution, Pictures of Ghosts is not just surprising but also genuinely curious.
Co-edited with Matheus Farias, the film’s montage is deft and clever, feeling effortless and intuitive as it moves between home videos, clips from films, photos, and original footage. The final passage is not only one of the year’s great delights, but a capstone in this endlessly rewarding gem. Pictures of Ghosts is a moving appreciation of cinema as a collective experience, of film as an art form, and is essential viewing for all those held, like Mendonça Filho, within the medium’s mysterious thrall.
Official Selection, 2023 Toronto International Film Festival