DocFest 2013 Entry #1: “Escaramuza: Riding From the Heart” and “Elena”

Escaramuza: Riding From the Heart

Escaramuza_Vanessa_tx700two-stars1By now I have learned a thing or two about the joys movies can bring when entering the theatre having zero expectations. Most importantly, I’ve learned that it’s always best to just allow a film’s direction to go wherever it pleases and not try and will it to veer down the path I’d rather see it go. Inevitably, trying to control a film’s direction as if it were my very own Choose Your Own Adventure book has always led to disappointing viewing experiences. Even if the movie is exceptional, the moment you start wishing it to go a certain way the end result will be failure. Take for example last night, when I went to see Bill Yahrauslatest documentary.

I knew nothing of the film’s subject matter, Mexican-American women known as escaramuza charras who compete in a rodeo sport that involves riding horses in intricate criss-cross patterns while donning some flashy hand sewn outfits. Yet, for some reason watching a documentary on a subject entirely new to me wasn’t enough to satisfy my cinematic jollies. I wanted intense drama. I wanted laugh-out-loud moments. I wanted eccentric individuals acting odd. Instead, what I got was an honest look at these women’s passion of this time-honored traditional Mexican sport. Why that didn’t satisfy me, who knows.

I mean, seriously, how controlling must I be? Hell, the movie wasn’t even badly made. The editing, camera work, score, and pacing were all of novice quality, and by the end of the 90 minutes not only did I learn about a sport I’ve never heard of before, but I took at a step further and have already begun researching where I can go see this sport live. Clearly it had an impact on me. So why didn’t I like this movie that much.

Well, as unfair as it may be, the truth is, I expected more. I know that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, considering I knew not a damn thing about this movie upon entering the theatre, but, hey, that’s how I feel at the moment. Am I being a little irrational? Maybe. Then again, nobody’s perfect.


film-hot-docs-600x338four-stars4If Terrence Malick were to make a documentary I’d imagine it would look something like Elena. There it is, another comparison to an already established one-of-a-kind filmmaker. I can assure you though that this comparison is not one I make lightly.

I think the less I say about this film, the better. Just know this: all too often films made honoring the life of loved ones appear as if they have been made exclusively for those within that person’s inner circle. Not so is the case in Petra Costa‘s poetic message to her sister, Elena. This film pulled me in from the start, wrapped its beautiful dreamlike imagery around my head, and showed me depictions of everlasting love and mourning like I’ve never seen in a non-fiction film before. Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll go call my sister.


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Categories: Docfest Film Festival, Reviews

One Comment on “DocFest 2013 Entry #1: “Escaramuza: Riding From the Heart” and “Elena””

  1. June 13, 2013 at 12:31 am #

    I agree with what you said about Elena, and that’s why I wrote almost nothing about it in my capsule review of it. What a beautiful film.

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