A Year Full Of Drama – Sydney Film Festival Review

Sydney Film Festival Kicks Off Virtually

Back again for its 67th year the Sydney Film Festival has truly embraced their 5050by2020 pledge with 75% of the 33 films directed by women. We also have the Europe! Voices of Women program back again for 2020 and whilst unfortunately I don’t get the opportunity to interview the filmmakers this year I’m still looking forward to seeing what the program has on offer.

I will miss going to the cinema and experiencing the hype of lining up for my seat and the energy of sitting in crowded theaters but not having to spend my life savings on popcorn and venture out in the torrential rain that has graced us today is a bit of a blessing. Plus I get the comfort of my own couch and the freedom to react to the films as loudly as I want without fear. Whether that be in guffaws of laughter at a comedy or in streams of tears at a drama. Speaking of drama the first film I have chosen to view for this years festival is Marta Pulk’s A Year Full of Drama.

This documentary follows a social experiment that tests the limits of cultural consumption through the eyes of Alissija, a small town girl who has never been to the theatre. Viewing over 200 Estonian productions over the course of the year the film poses the question of whether art has the power to change someone’s life. As a girl who grew up with the the theatre myself I was drawn to the premise almost immediately. Knowing the impacts being a part of the stage, both on it and behind the scenes, has had on my life I was curious to see how this experiment would play out.

As we follow the theatre going exploits of Alissija each show begins to peel away her layers revealing a truth not only about her but also about life. We learn as we go that Alissija is not as simple a person as she appears on the surface with a troubled past and traumas that follow her to this day. When happy performances suddenly cut to Alissija in tears in her apartment the film feels like riding a roller coaster of emotions. In this way it imitates life’s up and downs and the impactful way in which art can elevate what we are feeling.

The film itself is beautifully shot with images of silhouettes on blue evening skies and orange fire places providing warm glows to small cabins it almost feels as though you are watching a scripted feature instead of a documentary at times. The experiment itself is interesting and the things it reveals about art and humanity were truly eye opening, but the film can lag in pace at times making the nearly 2 hour run time feel even longer. This could be the way in which we follow Alissija on her journey. There are moments where she is sick of seeing productions and writing reviews and I could almost pin point this slump in her work as the exact moment I started to feel the pace of the film also dip. We are so tied to Alissija’s inner experience in the film that even our own experience of watching starts to emulate some of the things she is going through.

A Year Full Of Drama is also a year full of existential dread as the plays seem to enhance Alissija’s dread of living a normal life. The impending conclusion of her strange job leaves her wondering what the purpose of life really is and by extension as the film concludes the audience is also left questioning what the purpose of life really is. It becomes clear that art helps us give meaning to life and after discovering this it changes Alissija’s life forever.

Overall I enjoyed my time with A Year Full Of Drama both as a theatre going person myself and as a human of the world. I don’t think you need to be a theatre person to get something from this if anything you will get more if you do not often immerse yourself in art because Alissija’s experience over the course of the year helps teach us why art is such an important part of the human experience.

You can Rent A Year Full Of Drama from the Sydney Film Festival Website and watch it anywhere until the 21st June.

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