Girl With Black Balloons Review

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Edinburgh Film Festival was certainly in full swing this evening, with the usual throngs evident in and around the Filmhouse. There is a real buzz when you step into such an atmosphere and you can never predict who you’ll stand beside.

I’ve made my criticisms about this year’s line-up previously, so I won’t dwell on this aspect again. However thanks to corporate hospitality a few colleagues/friends and myself found ourselves in possession of tickets to see an hour long documentary called Girl with Black Balloons. Luckily looking at the range of documentaries on show in 2010 this was one that appealed and certainly surprised.

Held in the back of the Filmhouse, screen 3 is a tiny, intimate theatre that probably seats no more than 100 patrons. It’s been a few years since I was in this room but I’ve seen a few special films in my time within those walls and this was another. The director Corinne Van Der Borch was amongst us along with her editor (Laura Minnear) and introduced the film briefly, before returning for an informative Q&A session afterwards.

This was the World Premiere of the film and as I’ve said just a touch over an hour in length it certainly felt longer but in a positive way. Rather than detail the backdrop to this fascinating insight, I’ll just use the official synopsis:

'Bettina is said to be the most beautiful woman to have ever lived in the legendary Chelsea Hotel in New York City, according to residents, yet has hidden herself away in her studio for over 40 years.  She sleeps on a lawn-chair and surrounds herself with boxes stacked from floor to ceiling, filled with works of her art that have never seen the light of day. These boxes hide a stunning body of work - but it's come at a huge cost.  Her life as a reclusive guardian over her creativity and artwork inspires us to think about the world that we have each chosen for ourselves, how we are captive of it or freed by it.  

For the viewer it’s a remarkable journey, one that leaves so many questions that not even Corinne could answer fully. Bettina is a real character. We learn so much about the physical world she inhabits but little about her background or what enables her financially to survive. Yet her art is clearly from someone extremely talented and remarkably unseen now.'

Our group universally enjoyed the film and it prompted some debate afterwards in the bar area, where we managed to met Corinne’s husband and daughter before adding our comments to a film poster for Bettina. Interestingly we all took different things from the journey that unfolded on screen. There are clear moments of surprise, horror and humour that gel into an extremely personal, frank and memorable piece of cinema. I’m not sure how you can access this film but I would stress that you try and do so when distribution is arranged.

The official website is here and the team behind the film are trying to raise funds for the film. I’ll certainly be putting my money where my mouth is and I’d recommend you at least take a look.

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