Hot Docs 2019: Our Review of ‘Searching Eva’

Hot Docs 2019: Our Review of ‘Searching Eva’

The central subject of Director Pia Hellenthal’s documentary film Searching Eva is Eva Collé, a twenty-something poet, musician, blogger, model, and sex worker. The film is an honest and unflinching examination of Eva’s life and world-view and will likely make many people uncomfortable. Featuring somewhat graphic sequences of sex and sexuality, drug use, and harrowing journal entries concerning Eva’s upbringing, the documentary presents a warts-and-all snapshot of the unconventional life of this young woman.

Eva shares the intimate details of her life with the world via her blog, and the film utilizes captions of interactions she’s had with her readers and followers. Some of these are inspirational (Eva’s honesty has helped some of her fans become more comfortable in their own skin), some are invasive and needy, and some are downright cruel. Still, Eva handles these with a grace and elegance that is admirable.

Cinematography is rarely one of the first attributes that comes to mind when analyzing a documentary, but the film is beautifully framed and shot by cinematographer Janis Mazuch. The excerpts from Eva’s journal are presented with narration over static shots of Eva posing, and these moments look right out of a fashion magazine. Oftentimes, one would be forgiven for thinking it was a still image, with only a nearly imperceptible breeze providing movement. There is a shot towards the end of the film (which is paired beautifully with a cover of Bee Gees’ I Started A Joke) that is absolutely stunning, both from a visual perspective and for the subtext it suggests.

While perhaps not for the faint of heart or those who subscribe to a more conservative lifestyle, Searching Eva is an astonishingly raw and visceral experience. Director Pia Hellenthal and Collé herself are nothing if not brutally honest.

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