While the film has multiple “Best Documentary” wins at other film festivals this year, Pictures of Ghosts can best be described as a personal love letter that simultaneously spans numerous generations and remains timeless. Acclaimed director Kleber Mendonça Filho set out to tell the story of the Brazilian city he grew up in, Recife, by piecing together a 60+ year-old archive of photos and videos.
The city’s local cinemas and Kleber’s affection for them serve as an anchor point for the film, as their evolution and presence within city squares remained as one of a few constants through Brazil’s drastic political, economic and societal shifts through the 1900s.
Through the film’s particular editing, Kleber helps portray the comforting nature each of the cinemas possessed for attendees through times of uncertainty, giving locals like Kleber himself a place to escape the reality of the outside world. The film helps portray just how sacred the theatre is to the locals by likening them to a church in a highly religious town, advocating for audience members to reflect on the places and memories of their adolescence and the significance they played as a place of safety and passion.
The ways in which Kleber presents information to the audience help draw a certain level of empathy and relation regardless of whether or not they have ever visited his hometown. These elements of relatability, hometown love, and underlying social and economic commentary is what help Pictures of Ghosts transcend what is thought of as a typical documentary.