A free screening of Cecilia Aldarondo’s feature film Memories of a Penitent Heart (2016) will be held as part of her solo exhibition Mirrored Interiors will be held at WCMA from 4 to 6 p.m.
Combining a wealth of recently discovered home movies, video, and written documents with artfully shot contemporary interviews and vérité footage, Memories of a Penitent Heart is a documentary that cracks open a Pandora’s box of unresolved family drama. Originating from filmmaker Cecilia Aldarondo’s suspicion that there was something ugly in her family’s past, the film charts her excavation of the buried family conflict around her uncle Miguel’s death, and her search for Miguel’s partner Robert a generation later. After two years of dead ends, Robert turns up: but he’s not the same man. He’s reinvented himself as Father Aquin, a Franciscan monk with twenty-five years of pent-up grief and bitterness. For the first time, a member of Miguel’s family wants to hear Aquin’s side of the story—but is it too little, too late? A story about the mistakes of the past and the second chances of the present, Memories of a Penitent Heart is a cautionary tale about the unresolved conflicts wrought by AIDS, and a nuanced exploration of how faith is used and abused in times of crisis.
The screening of this film will be repeated on Friday, April 21.
Cecilia Aldarondo’s documentaries explore complex realities with themes ranging from identity, family, and memory. She is a director-producer from the Puerto Rican diaspora who works at the intersection of poetics and politics. Her feature documentaries Memories of a Penitent Heart (2016) and Landfall (2020) premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival and were co-produced by the award-winning PBS series POV. Her third feature You Were My First Boyfriend was selected for Opening Night of the 2023 South by Southwest Film Festival and will broadcast on HBO in 2023. Among Aldarondo’s fellowships and honors are the Guggenheim, a two-time MacDowell Colony Fellowship, the 2022 IDA Emerging Filmmaker Award, the 2021 New America Fellowship, and Women at Sundance 2017. In 2019 she was named to DOC NYC’s 40 Under 40 list and is one of 2015’s 25 New Faces of Independent Film. She teaches at Williams College.
Watch the Memories of a Penitent Heart trailer: