For Your Peace of Mind, Make Your Own Museum
(Panama, 71 min.)
Dir. Pilar Moreno and Ana Endara Mislov
In this impressive documentary, directors Pilar Moreno and Ana Endara vividly capture the irrepressible artistic spirit of a woman known only as Senobia. The genius of the film lies in the way that their creative expression of her life’s work opens up into an inspiring vision of determination in the face of unrelenting challenges.
Living alone in a Panamanian village, as an elderly woman, she populated her world with artworks designed mostly from discarded objects that she found, anything from plastic cups or bottles to broken umbrellas. The filmmakers shot each creation lovingly, expertly, as one would do for any treasured museum piece.
Defiantly resisting the uncontrollable realities of her world, Senobia picked her battles. In the face of diminishing wildlife, she placed imaginative renditions of birds and animals into the emptied landscape as a defence against the deforestation happening in the area.
For Your Peace of Mind vividly presents Senobia, who has passed away but whose spirit infuses the film, as an embodiment of personal empowerment. She transformed her own home into The Museum of Antiquities of All Species. There, she carefully arranged the old computers, televisions, telephones, and other dilapidated machinery that she was constantly picking up during her strolls, curating them alongside her hand sown and knitted finery. In and amongst these objects, she set various placards, with her written thoughts and observations on life, which pop out like inspirational sayings.
Beyond this chronicle of her creations, For Your Peace of Mind takes things one step further. Enlisting the help of some of the local women who knew her, the filmmakers strive to provide a deeper insight into Senobia. The poetic and sometimes playful observational style of the film becomes infused with a more conceptual approach, albeit one that comments on the talking heads practice in documentary.
We hear the women’s voices throughout the film, reading Senobia’s diary entries. For much of the film, Moreno and Endara ask the women to wear the same dress that Senobia wore and sit in the same spot in the kitchen of the house as they conduct interviews. While this conceptual part–the performative aspect, the repetition–bogs the film down at times, there is a remarkable payoff.
As the women share their reminiscences, they inevitably reveal much about themselves, much more than they would have dared if they had been asked directly. And in their personal details, a pattern emerges, one that says much about the patriarchal systems that are still keeping each woman down.
This spirit of rebellion makes For Your Peace of Mind unforgettable. It’s made possible in part by the filmmakers’ inspired insistence on maintaining the formal rigour of their conceptual documentary approach. But by inviting each woman to break through the fourth wall of this documentary, the filmmakers create an empowering dynamic, one perfectly aligned with Senobia’s vision.
Through her artistic practice, Senobia was liberating herself from the constraints of society. The women’s statements break through the film’s formal structure as they so clearly wish they could break through the roadblocks in their own lives. These admissions contain the same indomitable spirit that we have heard so much about in their discussions of Senobia. She’s gone now but her very nature permeates their lives and every frame of this film.
For Your Peace of Mind, Make Your Own Museum premieres at Hot Docs on May 2.