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Story of a Secret

Somber documentary "Story of a Secret" was likely more cathartic for helmer Mariana Otero to make than it is for an audience to watch. Painfully honest but tediously assembled, pic uncovers a family lie, maintained for years, that Otero's artist mother, Clotilde, died of appendicitis. In fact, she perished from an illegal backstreet abortion.

Somber documentary “Story of a Secret” was likely more cathartic for helmer Mariana Otero to make than it is for an audience to watch. Painfully honest but tediously assembled, pic uncovers a family lie, maintained for years, that Otero’s artist mother, Clotilde, died of appendicitis. In fact, she perished from an illegal backstreet abortion in 1969, when Mariana was a small child.Partly financed by a French TV company, docu is highly unlikely to travel any farther than Gaul.

Otero interviews various family members — including her sister Isabel and father Antonio — as well as family friends, thereby laudably turning pic into a celebration of Clotilde’s life and art as much as a post-mortem on her senseless death. Emotional center of the film is an interview with the still guilt-ridden and grieving Antonio. Interviews with medics reveal how numerous cases like Clotilde’s were before abortion was legalized in France in 1979. Nevertheless, the grindingly slow pace, featuring miles of shots of rain through car windows and too much coverage of mother’s paintings, dulls docu’s polemical clout. Music is monotonous.

Story of a Secret

France

  • Production: An Archipel 35, INA production, in association with France 5, with the participation of CNC. (International sales: DOC & CO, Paris.) Produced by Denis Freyd. Directed, written by Mariana Otero.
  • Crew: Camera (color, DV-to-35mm), Helene Louvart; editor, Nelly Quettier; music, Michael Galasso. Reviewed at Locarno Film Festival (Filmmakers of the Present), Aug. 10, 2003. Running time: 94 MIN.
  • With: <b>With:</b> Mariana Otero, Isabel Otero, Antonio Otero.