The Neighboring Sounds festival booklet describes Private Fiction as Argentinean filmmaker Andres Di Tella charting a turbulent 20th Century romance through archival photos and letters from his parents, Torcuato, an Argentinean man, and Kamala, a woman from India. Di Tella has indeed concocted an experimental, hybrid documentary, filled with home movies, snippets of his own films, scenes between himself and his young daughter, and a pair of actors who he has hired to read aloud his parents’ correspondences. Private Fiction is, at heart, an epistolary film, but Di Tella muddles it up with so much navel-gazing, a litany of postmodernist bells and whistles, that the whole project collapses under its own weight. Torcuato and Kamala’s letters give some sense of what it might be like for a mixed-race couple in the ’50s and ’60s, both self-describing as outsiders in whatever country they happen to be in at a given time. But Di Tella meanwhile launches several different threads of voiceover, attempting to interrogate the nature of photography and memory, while hinting at some kind of mystery at the heart of his parent’s relationship. Meanwhile, the young actors recording these letters are themselves a couple, although their parallel story never intersects in any kind of interesting way with the main narrative. There’s a lot going on here, but it is all lacking in any real overriding aesthetic agenda to organize the bounty of material. No one is doubting Di Tella’s good faith here, but in attempting to excavate his own family history, he fails to dig deep enough, instead leaving us with a surface-oriented smattering of contemporary avant-garde tics and his own pretensions.
Published as part of Neighboring Scenes 2020.