Starring: Seedne Bujaidar, Yasamini Guerrero, Charlotta Mohlin
Directed by: Kelly Daniela Norris (debut)
Written by: Kelly Daniela Norris (debut)

Grief is a process that is both unique and universal. While it is something that we all experience, it is entirely complex and can take many different forms for different people. In “Sombras de Azul,” Maribel (Seedne Bujaidar) must come to terms with her brother’s suicide. In order to cope, she takes a trip to the one place he always wanted to visit: Cuba. After a rather troublesome introduction, she befriends Eusebo (Yasamani Guerrero) who serves as a guide (and, in a sense, an emotional guide) through the streets of Havana.

As a first time actress, Bujaidar is highly impressive. Her expressive eyes truly show the pain of a girl who is not only devastated by loss, but also confused in the process. The delivery of her dialogue is natural and her performance is elevated even further in her scenes with Guerrero with whom she has a very genuine chemistry.

Without a doubt, the strongest element of the film is writer/director Kelly Daniela Norris’ screenplay. In a well thought-out move, Norris makes use of voiceovers to convey the thoughts and emotions of Maribel. These come in the form of conversations with her deceased brother, which are often heartbreaking but always profound. They do a fantastic job of informing the audience about the nature of their relationship. Through Maribel’s words, we hear her imagine what her brother’s last moments alive were like. We hear her describe how she can feel him comforting her as she expresses remorse for not calling him. Maribel is understandably broken, but through her narration, the audience gets a brilliantly insightful look as she makes her way through the mourning process. While certainly not bad, Norris is a little less successful as a director. The shots of the streets, people and setting of Havana, while interesting at first, are far too many. There are also a few shots that suffer from either too much or too little camera movement and the closing moments of the film might lack a little resolution for some.

Having lost a brother of her own, Norris has crafted a deeply personal film, and it shows. Its construction has the type of insight that only someone who has suffered the pain and anguish of losing a loved one could provide. In it’s finest moments, “Sombras de Azul” is a beautiful and poetic meditation on life, death, and loss. With her first feature, Norris will be someone to watch in the future, especially for her screenwriting.

“Sombras de Azul” is playing at the Austin Film Festival on Thursday, Oct. 24 at 7:10 pm (Rollins Theater) and Monday, Oct. 28 at 7:00 pm (Texas Spirit Theater). 

For more Austin Film Festival Coverage, click here. 

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