Hot Docs: Laura

If you’ve ever had fantasies of living like a socialite, you might want to think again.  As the film Laura shows, it isn’t as glamorous as it looks.

Directed by Fellipe Gamarano Barbosa, the film’s subject is Laura, a South American socialite who sneaks into back entrances of exclusive parties to mingle with celebrities and  upper-class individuals.

Serving as the fascination of Barbosa, this film captures Laura’s double life  through shaky camera footage, several uncomfortable close-ups and conversations (which are often arguments) with the director himself.  And while she basks in the glitz and glamour of New York’s elite,  she continues to conceal her poverty to protect her persona as a diva.

Labelled the “first lady” of the building where she resides, Laura is a hoarder who lives in an apartment crammed to the ceiling with bags of clothes and miscellaneous things like playbills, posters, books and CDs.  With no apparent job and a mysterious stream of money coming to her from Brazil, Laura remains an enigma.

Not much is known about her past and her as a person.  We only know that she was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina and later moved to Brazil when she was 13.  Having  once been married, she has since left her house in Brazil to live vicariously in New York.

At many times, the film appears messy, unfocused and unorganized.   But who can blame the director when the subject’s way of life is all over the place? The film tries so hard to find the real “Laura”.  But evidently, it seems more like a cat-and-mouse game of seeing what she’s up to next.

With her life’s motto being “Let it roll”, it’s clear Barbosa faced challenges while shooting the film. Through following Laura during her different escapades, what’s interesting here is  the director’s choice to include himself in the film.  By making his focus more about the relationship he had with Laura, Barbosa says he thought “it would be easier to dramatize” the film if he showed how their friendship changed over time.

That being said, Barbosa and Laura are no longer friends.

“Once the film was out there,  I knew our relationship was over,” he said, noting that Laura hated the film. “It was a big struggle.  It was not what I thought it was going to be.”

And yet, he is proud of the final product.  Even though the film doesn’t fully capture Laura, what we get is an incredible and complex portrait of a unique woman who lives by her own rules.

In fact, Barbosa is still trying to figure her out.  While he tries to keep his thoughts to himself, he only offers one piece of insight about his subject.

Realizing that Laura doesn’t seem have the ability to see what she’s looking for in life, he only says, “I’m not sure if she really loves herself.”

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