Frida Kahlo is a cultural icon whose paintings and mindset continue to influence and impact us today. In the documentary “Frida,” Carla Gutiérrez provides Kalho’s story in her own words using written interviews, journals, essays, and letters.
The film elevates its emotional stakes and enhances the immersive experience, thanks to its voice narrator (the incredible Fernanda Echevarria del Rivero).
“Frida” succeeds in putting aside the brand Frida Kahlo has become to present instead the individual she was when she was alive. The artist, the woman, the sister, the wife, and the rebel take center stage, predominantly told through Frida’s perspective. The archival footage is extraordinary and is accentuated by the beautiful score and songs.
Frida has become a symbol of female empowerment. Her face is plastered everywhere, from shirts to tote bags, wallets, and calendars (I know because I own all of these items). Still, I admit that my knowledge of Frida was through a history of Mexico course and what I’ve heard from a social-cultural standpoint. Not having read her biographies or dived into her life, I found this documentary informational and eye-opening.
I was aware of her accident at a young age that caused chronic pain throughout her life. But this film presents her thoughts, emotions, and mindset during her darkest and most content times. I appreciated Gutiérrez’s decision to showcase Frida as a complicated human being who navigated the spectrum of emotions that most of us do.
Frida wasn’t only a talented artist, she was a woman who loved life and cherished every day despite experiencing excruciating pain. Her mindset of life not happening TO her but rather FOR her is an optimistic approach that undoubtedly helped her get through various challenging situations. When you navigate life expecting to learn or gain something from the most mundane moments, that’s what gives it meaning and purpose.
It’s no known secret that she is remembered for marrying Mexican muralist Diego Rivera. I was caught off guard listening to her talk about him. She speaks of him with such admiration and love (when they first met). She loved him so much that she suffered plenty in their first marriage. He broke her heart, and she coped with the pain through her paintings.
These paintings come to life! The decision to animate the paintings added mysticism to the already visceral drawings. It was a thrill to witness these well-known portraits visually representing Kahlo’s thoughts and mood during those times.
The one that stood out to me the most was “The Broken Column,” a self-portrait of her fractured spine with tears on her face and nails all over her upper body. It’s such a potent and visceral representation of her physical state. A little warning for everyone: Many of her paintings contain nudity, including the one I just mentioned.
Overall, “Frida” is an extraordinary documentary that chronicles the life of a legend who refused to let pain, betrayal, disappointment, or criticism dim her light.
“Frida” will be streaming on Prime Video beginning March 15, 2024.