While editing her last film in Toronto, filmmaker Maria Teresa Larraín starts to lose her sight. She decides to experience her pain alone and close the doors to her past, convinced she’ll never be able to work as an artist again. However, the news of her mother’s passing means she returns to her native Chile, which she left behind 30 years back. Walking the streets of Santiago she gets to know a new world which inspires her: that of the blind street vendors of La Alameda, the city’s main avenue. A compelling journey into the depths of blindness in an autobiographic narration full of courage and a sense of humour when facing a new life.
|Original Title||Shadow Girl|
|German Title||Shadow Girl|
|French Title||Shadow Girl|
|Other Titles||Shadow Girl|
|Directed by||Maria Teresa Larrain|
|Screenplay||Maria Teresa Larrain|
|Film Editing||Ricardo Acosta, Jordan Kawai, Tim Wilson|
|Cinematography||Daniel Grant, Arnaldo Rodríguez|
|Production||Maremoto Productions , Lisa Valencia-Svensson|
“In a new chapter of Inclusive Awareness we will talk with film director, María Teresa Larraín, about the premise of Shadow Girl, a documentary which narrates the process of the loss of sight.” CNN Chile
Shadow Girl by film critic Carlos Correa “This moving documentary by María Teresa Larraín depicts her own story. A hard road, a deep journey towards vision loss and a feared blindness which gradually dims shapes and colours, substantially transforming her life. As she becomes blind, she lets us into her inner world…” Source: Signis Chile
Maria Teresa Larrain:
Shadow Girl is an intimate first-person film by Chilean-born filmmaker María Teresa Larraín. It follows her journey as she suddenly starts losing her vision and grapples with her new reality as a filmmaker who is irreversibly losing her sight. In creating this work, María Teresa uses the dislocation and loss of identity she confronts as the emotional springboard to create a lyrical tone poem at once accessible and very human. Shadow Girl begins with the filmmaker's private despair, loneliness and ‘shame’ and follows the events and struggles that bring her to a more hopeful, socially engaged and defiant outlook. While following the dramatic arc of María Teresa’s personal story, the film also offers the viewer a window into her creative process and her transition from a sighted to a blind filmmaker.
In Shadow Girl, the viewer becomes María Teresa’s companion as she travels between Toronto and Santiago, the two cities she calls home. The filmmaker’s storytelling devices include ‘the blind gaze’ and the crossing of the bridge that symbolizes the separation of the sighted world from that of the blind. The film also explores the relationship between sound and memory, central elements in María Teresa's work. Shot with two cameras depicting both a subjective and an objective point of view, Shadow Girl provides the blind characters with a rare opportunity seldom granted in film to the disabled: that of looking back, returning the spectator's gaze.
In Toronto after she begins losing her sight, she is denied disability benefits by the Canadian government. Without any other means of support she begins to slip into poverty. Encouraged by her large family, who all support her in her time of need, she goes back to her native Santiago which she had fled at the height of the Pinochet dictatorship.
On Santiago's main commercial street María Teresa meets a group of blind street vendors who are fighting for the right to continue to sell their wares, which is their sole means of support. The bond she forms with this tight-knit community fundamentally changes her understanding of what it means to live as a blind person, and starts her on a journey of empowerment and transformation. Their dignity and determination inspire her to use her skills as a filmmaker and bring their stories to a wider audience. The idea of a blind filmmaker is an oxymoron at first, but as María Teresa begins to reclaim her voice, she redefines filmmaking on her own terms.
As the street vendors embrace her and she becomes part of their lives, María Teresa experiences another type of transformation. As she walks the streets of her childhood and reconnects with her family, she starts to build a new identity and find a new path in life. Through her aging mother, who has also gone blind, she learns how to balance relying on others while maintaining her independence. Most surprisingly, in their innocence, her young granddaughters teach her that blindness is just another way of being.
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