EFA 2016 Nomination Review: I'm Not From Here

Giedrė Žickytė (Lithuania) and Maite Alberdi (Chile) co-direct I’m Not from Here, a sensitive documentary short film that follows Josebe, an old woman of 88, as she wanders through the endless loop to which Alzheimer’s has reduced her life.

Only through film could the bewildering, claustrophobic maze of the mind of an elderly Alzheimer’s sufferer be so effectively condensed into just 25 minutes. In the hands of Giedré Žickytė and Maite Alberdi, this meticulously perceived medley of glances, expressions, silences and nonsensical conversations comes together to offer a sweeping reflection on old age and the fragility of memory.

The documentary unfolds through the stream of reminiscences uttered incessantly by Josebe, an 88-year-old Basque immigrant living in an old people’s home in Chile. Over and over again, we hear her disjointed memories of her life before she joined the other elderly residents of this institution. In a rambling monologue, she talks of her childhood in Errenteria, a small town in the Spain’s northern Basque country; how she met her husband, or “boyfriend”; her move to Chile; and her family. By bringing the audience face to face with Josebe’s disoriented gaze, this touching film evokes sympathy and compassion in equal measure.

Despite the impediments of her failing memory and her advanced age, Josebe displays a strength of character that provides a heartbreaking contrast to the sad echo of her endlessly repeating anecdotes, which continue to flow even as the end credits are rolling. Her illness causes her to believe that she will only be spending a few days in the home before returning to Errenteria, but we learn from phone conversations with her daughter that she has actually been there for some months. After a long life shaped by her origins, her experience of exile and her family, Josebe now clings to all she has left of it—this litany—with all her worth. From the teeming chaos of her mind, the film skilfully pieces together the key events of her life, leading us to ask ourselves: if dementia were to take hold of our minds, what memories would remain to us?

Maite Alberdi is a Chilean film director and producer whose earlier documentaries include The Lifeguard (2011) and La Once (2016), a portrait of a group of elderly Chilean women trying to maintain their bonds of friendship through a monthly get-together. Lithuanian filmmaker Giedre Zickyte also has experience of both directing and producing. His documentary work, such as How We Played the Revolution (2011) and Master and Tatyana (2015), is primarily concerned with depicting the events of the past. A collaborative effort between the two filmmakers, I’m Not from Here premièred at Visions du Réel in 2016. Earlier this year, the film took the Audience Award at Documenta Madrid and received critical acclaim at a number of other festivals, including Hot Docs and Sheffield Doc/Fest.

Fran Royo

14 October 2016, by Fran Royo