Mirrored Interiors features four films by the award-winning filmmaker Cecilia Aldarondo. The exhibition consists of five screenings presented over three weeks, starting with a special one-time-only Williamstown debut of Aldarondo’s newest film You Were My First Boyfriend (2023) at Images Cinema on Wednesday, April 5, at 6:30 p.m. followed by a conversation between film curator and writer Sally Berger and the artist.
Landfall (2020) and the film short Picket Line (2017) will be shown together on Tuesday, April 11, and Tuesday, April 18; Memories of a Penitent Heart (2016) will screen on Friday, April 14, and Friday, April 21. These screenings will be at WCMA starting at 4 p.m.
You Were My First Boyfriend (97 minutes)
What if you could rewrite your adolescence? In this high school reunion movie turned inside out, Aldarondo embarks on a fantastical quest to reconcile her tortured teen years. She “goes back” in more ways than one, tracking down old foes and friends while also reenacting visceral memories of youthful humiliation and desire. Oscillating between present and past, hallucination and reality, You Were My First Boyfriend is a hybrid documentary that explores the power of adolescent fantasy, the subtle violence of cultural assimilation, and the fun house mirror of time’s passage. Perhaps we will all learn something about growing older and making peace with what haunts us.
Memories of a Penitent Heart (72 minutes)
Combining a wealth of recently discovered home movies, videos, and written documents with artfully shot contemporary interviews and vérité footage, Memories of a Penitent Heart is a documentary that cracks open Pandora’s box of unresolved family drama. Originating from 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.
Landfall (91 minutes)
Through shard-like glimpses of everyday life in post-Hurricane María Puerto Rico, Landfall is a cautionary tale for our times. Set against the backdrop of protests that toppled the U.S. colony’s governor in 2019, the film offers a colorful portrait of collective trauma and resistance. While the devastation of María attracted a great deal of media coverage, the world has paid far less attention to the storm that preceded it: a $72 billion debt crisis crippling Puerto Rico well before the winds and waters hit. Landfall examines the kinship of these two storms—one environmental, the other economic—juxtaposing competing utopian visions of recovery. Featuring intimate encounters with Puerto Ricans as well as the newcomers flooding the island, Landfall reflects on a question of contemporary global relevance: when the world falls apart, who do we become?
Picket Line (9 minutes)
One week before Donald Trump was elected, 700 workers—many of whom were Trump supporters—walked out of the Momentive chemical plant in Waterford, N.Y., sparking a 105-day strike. In the wake of his win, the striking workers reflect on the election and Trump’s advocacy for union-busting legislation.
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.
Mirrored Interiors was organized by Jordan Horton, Mellon Curatorial Fellow, MA ’23 in collaboration with Images Cinema and the Williams College Art Department.
The exhibition is accompanied by a publication with contributions by Sally Berger, Jordan Horton, and Ade Omotosho MA ’22, and designed by Jen Rork.
Download the accompanying publication here.
News & Press
Luke Chinman, Prof. Aldarondo revisits adolescence in documentary You Were My First Boyfriend, Williams Record, April 12, 2023