It’s fitting that most of the substance is dredged up during the interview process. During Varina’s assessment of these talented women, Varina seems to be on a covert investigative journey to unmask the secret behind their cultural success. The financial and emotional strain of an artist is grossly common, but the women Varina examines have discovered a way to be keenly fulfilled by the life of an artist. Becoming a filmmaker, or master of any medium, you have to come to terms with the fact that the completed project will likely be professionally and publicly judged. In Us, Forever Ago, the 2030 version of Varina harks back to the time when she showed the finished product of her introspective doc to an audience, and the response wasn’t excessively positive. Varina admits to poor word-of-mouth, either appreciating honest feedback or attempting to undervalue the weight of criticism.
“…there’s fascination embedded in deciding what is probably spurious footage and what is real footage taken from the 2015 doc.”
Us, Forever Ago is a striking documentary-narrative hybrid that doesn’t lay out a clear-cut storyline or predetermined destination. Anchored by Simon Toro’s intrusive cinematography, which shakily follows Varina from behind as she travels through the Ridgewood neighborhood of Queens, NY, the casually shambolic flow of New York is deftly captured. In a sudden shift, voice-over emerges as diegetic sound in the form of a phone conversation. Inherently fractured and cryptic, there’s fascination embedded in deciding what is probably spurious footage and what is real footage taken from the 2015 doc. However, the meta nature of the film can sometimes come across as sybaritic or unnecessary, particularly when it comes to vivifying the contrasting visions and triumphs of each surveyed artist.
Respecting the vision of a myriad of virtuosos, Varina seems to be on a mission to realize the artist’s dream and look back on her own creative endeavors. Varina opens the picture with a bold filmmaker statement: “Well, I think the main reason was that I changed a lot, the year right after I shot a film. So when I started editing it, it just didn’t make any sense.” Not every first feature, first painting, first novel, or first song can be an impeccable piece of art; you may not be satisfied with the entire result, but at least you have something to look back on and learn from. More profoundly, you can’t pursue a cultural occupation without expecting criticism. As we all get older, we evolve in stature, appearance, and perception, hopefully becoming somebody who’s more in tune with our formation, achievements, shortcomings, and aspirations. Whilst Us, Forever Ago is immensely inspired by Varina’s experiences with her 2015 documentary and the perspectives of four seasoned artists, Varina wants the viewer to reflect on their own life with as much meditation. And Us, Forever Ago is an absorbing exercise, eagerly pushing the viewer to take their own trip down memory lane.
"…Varina wants the viewer to reflect on their own life with as much meditation."