Last night on May 27, 2014, Examiner.com was on the scene at a special screening of director Petra Costa's "Elena." Other notables we spotted included Dan Bittner, Ruben Blades, Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman, Neil Burger, Erin Cummngs, Tovah Feldshuh, Dan Hedaya, Patti LuPone, Pepper Brinkley, Jason Shuman, Danny Strong, Isiah Whitlock and Elvy Yost.
The screening and after party were held at Tribeca Grand Hotel and the evening was hosted by Executive Producer Tim Robbins and The David Lynch Foundation. Robbins was stuck in Los Angeles, but sent a video message for attendees. "I was recently at the Berlin Film Festival as a juror and saw twenty films, and at the end of that I met Petra ... and she gave me this DVD. I was like "God, more films," so I put it in my bag. When I was back home I watched it, and if a film can take the fifteen of those twenty that weren't so great, and cleanse me of them, and make me believe again in the transformative power of the cinema, and let loose my senses about it, it was this film," Robbins said.
The film traces filmmaker Petra Costa’s lyrical and emotional search for her sister Elena, who left home for New York to become a movie actress after a childhood in hiding following the military dictatorship in Brazil. In the spirit of "Tarnation," "Elena" blurs the lines between documentary, diary, and fever dream, and is at once captivating and devastating.
Robbins also reflected on being on artist in New York like Petra's sister. "Well I do remember feeling less than zero in New York City, when you're an artist and you're opening up your soul and heart, laying yourself in front of people, stripping naked, it's a very sensitive place to be. Too often, society and successful artists forget about the necessity of young artists' experimentation, and certainly the life of an artist is designed that way. There's going to be a tremendous amount of rejection, a tremendous amount of challenges one has to overcome in order to pursue one's dreams and only through trying something dangerous or new can society grow from the artist's effort."
"I like the way the cinematography goes in and out of clarity. Isn't that always a vow to try to figure out what happened. It's always a mystery to go into the past and try to figure out what the actual truth is, and what you find is that there is more than one truth. What I think is unique about 'Elena,' the film is that it takes you to a place that you're reluctant to go as a person and it forces you to face your own demons and your own sadness and your own loss in a way that is ultimately very healthy. Part of the reason I want to support the film, is because I know it's not a slam dunk on selling it or getting a big audience for it, it's a necessary film I feel because we all have experienced something like this," Robbins concluded.
During her introductory remarks Petra thanked everyone involved in the film. "I hope the film will resonate with your hearts and mind, and that hopefully you can also dance with your own unconsolable memories," she said. From executive producers Tim Robbins and Fernando Meirelles, one of the most successful documentaries of all time in Brazil now comes to America. "Elena's" runtime is 80 minutes and it opens in New York on this Friday, May 30.