Hot Docs 2023: Roberta

Directed by: Elena Kairyté
Distributed by: TBA

Written by Taylor Baker


Elena Kairyté’s directorial debut places a camera along, around, and directly in front of Roberta Dell as she navigates life in early adulthood. On that journey Roberta attempts to reinvent herself, contends with how employers see her, and moves between numerous homes, relationships, and workplaces. She tries to find herself in-between pinching pennies, looking after pets, and moving to a new country.

Rather than shedding light on a particular underseen portion of society or bringing to light a unique lifestyle, “Roberta” is procedurally conventional from start to finish, allowing its subject to express herself while it captures her behavior and lifestyle immersively as she lives it. The consequences are once again conventional but slow burning, the story Roberta expresses about her perceived reality and what the camera captures are at odds occasionally. With her vocalizing external factors for why she’s in a certain life situation or blaming her parent, but as the documentary unfolds we see Roberta gather herself and begin to assume more responsibility for crafting a life she would like to lead.

Alternating between still exterior expanses and cityscapes to boisterous underground discotheques and a slew of cluttered domiciles “Roberta” excels as an extended slice of life doc that details both the mundane and the personal. Her pursuit of being true to who she is, practicing art, and trying after having experienced numerous difficulties is a universal one, but due to the immediacy of Elena’s lens and the comfortable environment she creates for Roberta, it’s wonderfully personal and has an intimacy that few filmmakers can foster. This paired with Elena’s occasional delicate handheld camerawork make for an immersive documentary on growing up.

“Roberta” Trailer

“Roberta” was screened as part of the 2023 edition of the Hot Docs film festival.

You can follow more of Taylor’s thoughts on film on LetterboxdTwitter, and Rotten Tomatoes.

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