Ana. Untitled starts with a quote from Virginia Wolf, “Fiction here is likely to contain more truth than fact.” So you know this documentary will contain some artifice, you’re just never sure what, not til the very end.
Ana. Untitled is about Latin American women artists, and more specifically their erasure. I can’t remember who, but a female writer was once asked why there has never been a female Shakespeare, as if the fact we don’t hold women’s writing in such reverence was proof that it didn’t deserve to be. She replied that there has never existed the conditions to allow a female Shakespeare. That reply kept echoing through my mind while listening to the repeated accounts of different women from across a continent all speak to the same issues, state repression, racism, gender-based violence, and familial workload. At every stage, they struggled with a lack of support, to actively being prevented from creating art. And even when they did succeed against all odds, their work was still dismissed, erased and forgotten.
Ana. Untitled is an act of remembering. It is remembering Ana, but in the search for her, it interviews numerous women from across the continent about their lives and art. It highlights the often forgotten contribution to art and also to politics. These women were part of the huge political changes of their time, yet the history books will rarely record their participation. Ana is Black, and highlights the double likelihood of being erased even among women artists. She is also queer, something which necessitates you erase yourself, for safety’s sake. The film takes us on an archaeology of what is buried, both deliberately and passively, in the past.
The other thing about Ana. Untitled is, it is not simply about the past. It is a mirror to today. The director in the Q&A was very clear about the inspiration for the movie coming from the rise of Bolsonaro and the assassination of Marielle Franco. Fascism and the violent repression of women is absolutely here, right now. This is not a history lesson about the 1970s, it is a wake up call about today.
What I liked about Ana. Untitled is that it shows the documentary makers and interviews them on their experiences. The director herself was imprisoned and tortured during the dictatorship in Brazil. The guys doing the camera and sound were only kids and didn’t really understand the seriousness of things until after it was over. And the younger generation are living with its legacy, the racism which has not gone away, and the psychological impact of inherited trauma. When they get to Chile, the electrician talks about living through the assassination of Allende. This is a history they all live with one way or another.
In a world where the government was able to erase its own crimes, the official facts reveal less than a documentary with a little fiction. Really interesting film.