Review: ‘The Legacy of Frida Kahlo’

Hot Docs 2016

2 mins read

The Legacy of Frida Kahlo
(Japan, 89 min.)
Dir. Tadasuke Kotani
Programme: Special Presentations (Canadian Premiere)


Japanese filmmaker Kotani’s doc opens on Mexico’s Dia de los Muertos, Mexico’s carnivalesque celebration of the dead, and returns to it in its finale. The Day of the Dead, with its flamboyant costumes and death’s head makeup worn by celebrators of all ages, connects with the film’s content.

In this movie, the legacy of Frida Kahlo is a treasure trove of her clothes, shoes, leg braces, painkillers, and other artifacts found in her husband Diego Rivera’s bathroom, which had been locked up for 50 years. Throughout the doc, Japanese photographer Miyako Ishiuchi, photographs embroidered dresses, spectacularly decorated corsets, and other belongings, including a hand-decorated prosthetic leg.

Like celebrators of the Day of the Dead, Ishiuchi honours a dear person who died, in this case a woman who expressed herself through costume. (Of course, Kahlo also did this through her paintings but that’s of less concern to Ishiuchi.) The intimate pictures of Kahlo’s outfits, shot for an exhibition, are meant to evoke the artist’s body and soul. At one point, Ishiuchi reveals that she identifies with Kahlo so strongly she believes they are the same person.

Conventionally directed, drifting at times, the film nevertheless documents a compelling creative project and like the photographs, is haunted by a legend.

The Legacy of Frida Kahlo screens:
-Friday, May 6 at the Fox Theatre at 7:00 PM


Hot Docs runs April 28 – May 8. Visit for more information.


Courtesy of Hot Docs

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