Director: Petra Costa

Year: 2012

Duration: 80 min

Language: English


A haunting yet beautiful homage to the director’s sister – Elena. A documentary that plays more like a drama, the director returns to NY two decades later to find out the fate of her sister. She rediscovers her life and pain in a trove of letters, tapes and videos. Presented by Tim Robbins and Fernando Meirelles, Elena  is a cinematic journey that touches the soul in a way filmmaking hasn’t done in years.

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Press for Elena

Elena named one of the top films to watch on VOD in September by Indiewire!

A pained and gorgeous summoning, Petra Costa’s haunted doc Elena dances with death, memory, and family, seducing viewers and then breaking their hearts.”  – Alan Scherstuhl The Village Voice


This personal documentary by the Brazilian filmmaker Petra Costa unfolds a story of grief and thwarted promise with expressive urgency and thoughtful restraint. ”  – Richard Brody The New Yorker


“An homage to the beloved older sister cowriter-director Petra Costa lost when she was 7-years-old, Elena is a detailed anatomy of grief—and a poetic tribute to life, love, and the transformative power of art. Costa combines family video, photos and testimonials from her sister with new footage of herself and New York, the city where she retraces the contours of Elena’s life and explores its effect on her own. Her entrancing, beautiful footage frequently features blurred images, soft colors, slow pans, and slow motion. The images of water set the stage for her concluding metaphor for the healing power of time: “Little by little, the pain turns to water, becomes memory.””  –  Elise Nakhnikian The L Magazine


An impressionistic memoir of loss and self-actualization, Elena traces the eerily parallel lives of two sisters.” – Jose Teodoro Now Magazine