Estiu 1993 (Summer 1993, 2017)
Written and directed by Carla Simón
Starring: Laia Artigas, Paula Robles, Bruna Cusí, David Verdaguer
BY RAQUEL MARTÍNEZ
Summer 1993 is the first (and to this date, only) full-length film by Catalan director Carla Simón. Last year, Summer 1993 screened in Glasgow as part of the Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival, where it received the Best Film award. This was hardly surprising, as Simón’s coming of age story had already bagged a few prizes all over Europe, including the Best First Feature Award at the prestigious Berlinale. Ignoring the tense relations between Catalonia and Spain at the time, the Spanish Film Academy selected this Catalan-language film as Spain’s official submission to the Oscars. After the screening, producer Valérie Delpierre commented that, in spite of the film’s success elsewhere, she was still striving to obtain film distribution rights in the UK. A year on, Summer 1993 is (thankfully) being released in specific cinemas all over the UK.
One of Summer 1993’s most appealing features is its autobiographical nature. The film tells the story of Frida (Laia Artigas), a six-year-old girl (and fictional representation of Simón herself) whose mother has passed away due to HIV complications. Having previously lost her father as well, Frida moves in with her uncle Esteve (David Verdaguer), his partner Marga (Bruna Cosí) and their four-year-old daughter, Anna (the adorable Paula Robles). They share a quiet existence amidst the strikingly green Catalan countryside. Nevertheless, the arrival of Frida complicates their idyllic family life.
There is not much action; rather, the whole film is built upon a succession of different daily scenes in Frida’s new life during the eponymous summer. As days go by, Frida antagonises her aunt Marga and it becomes obvious that Frida is not used to any sort of rules or parental discipline. We witness glimpses of the out-of-the-ordinary relation between Frida and her deceased mother through Frida’s awkward play with Anna. Heavily made-up, Frida utters words that seem out of context for such a young child (‘I love so much, so much, so much that I can never say no to you’) and which Anna obviously does not understand. When other relatives arrive from Barcelona for a surprise visit, Frida seeks their sympathy by telling them how she is practically a slave, being forced to do everything in the house. As viewers, we know this is far from true.
Frida may seem like a difficult character to empathise with at times, especially when she plays all sorts of tricks on her younger (but by no means gullible) cousin Anna. In various moments, we are required to draw actively on our feelings of protection and compassion to reach out to Frida and assure her that she will get there, eventually.
This is a film about trauma. Despite its beautiful visual style and heart-warming tone, Summer 1993 unveils the long-lasting sense of confusion felt by a child following the death of a parent. In doing so, this film portrays the arduous process of recovery. It is a long path shaped by love, time and mutual understanding. For Carla Simón, Summer 1993 might have been another step in her way to recovery as an adult, releasing hidden memories and coming to terms with feelings too huge and complex for a child to cope with.
Summer 1993 screens at Glasgow Film Theatre from 20th July. Click here for film trailer and screening times.
*Image courtesy of Oscilloscope Laboratory http://summer1993.oscilloscope.net/