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    Directed by

    Brazil, USA


    82 min

    • Portuguese

    Documentary, Family

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    ELENA, a young Brazilian woman, travels to New York with the same dream as her mother, to become a movie actress. She leaves behind her childhood spent in hiding during the years of the military dictatorship. She also leaves Petra, her seven year old sister. Two decades later, Petra also becomes an actress and goes to New York in search of Elena. She only has a few clues about her: home movies, newspaper clippings, a diary and letters. At any moment Petra hopes to find Elena walking in the streets in a silk blouse. Gradually, the features of the two sisters are confused; we no longer know one from the other. When Petra finally finds Elena in an unexpected place, she has to learn to let her go.


    • Audience Award, Best Documentary, Best Direction, Best Editing, Best Art Direction - Brasilia FF
    • Special Mention - ZagrebDox IFF
    • Best Documentary (Anna Politkovskaïa Jury Prize) - Films de Femmes IFF


    Li An
    Elena Andrade
    Petra Costa
    Petra Costa
    Carolina Ziskind
    Janice D'Avila
    Will Etchebehere
    Miguel Vassy
    Tina Baz
    Marilia Moraes
    Fil Pinheiro


    First, there are three women intermingled. Then, there are surch and separation. Elena is memory now. And memory is a living house. ELENA is one of the most beautiful documentaries I have ever seen.

    Eliane Brum

    A rare cinematic experience. A film that generates 60 insights a minute.

    Fernando Meirelles, Director of "City of God"

    Petra Costa

    Petra Costa


    Directing is cathartic: slowly the pain turns to memory, turns to water. I feel that many things that were very painful become memory, and in doing so I am soothed, the pain is dissolved.

    Petra Costa is a film director and actress. Before making ELENA, she directed and produced the short film OLHOS DE RESSACA (UNDERTOW EYES), a poetic depiction of love and aging as seen from the perspective of her grandparents. In 2009, OLHOS DE RESSACA was shown in several national and international festivals, receiving important prizes, among which Best Short Film in the Rio Festival 2009, Best Short Film in the London International Documentary Film Festival 2010, Best Short Documentary in Cine Las Americas 2010, Festival and Special Jury Prize in the Gramado Festival 2009.
    In 2015, OLMO & THE SEAGULL, the feature she co-directed with Lea Glob, won the Nordic Dox Award at CPH:DOX and the Junior Jury Prize at Locarno Film Festival. Her most recent title, THE EDGE OF DEMOCRACY, premiered at the World Documentary Competition at Sundance 2019 and is competing for the DOX:AWARD at CPH:DOX, 2019.

    Selected Filmography