Film Review: The Tsugua Diaries

The first scene of a film sets the tone. Brings the audience into the director’s vision and gives a taste of what is yet to come. A memorable opening sequence can be so important. The beginning of Ben Sharrock’s Limbo or Oleh Sentsov’s Rhino are great recent examples of how you can introduce your characters to the world. The same can be said for The Tsugua Diaries, the new film from Maureen Fazendeiro and Miguel Gomes.

Three housemates (Carloto Cotta, Crista Alfaiate, and João Nunes Monteiro) and close friends have only themselves for company, living in rural Portugal during their COVID-19 lockdown. They spend their days doing mundane tasks, such as gardening and building a butterfly house, as well as having impromptu dance parties. What begins as something novel soon fades into ennui and frustration, spilling out beyond the camera.

The Tsugua Diaries tackles life during a pandemic using a mix of fictional and non-fictional devices. We observe the companions as relationships become increasingly confused, complicated and strained. Shot in 16mm, affording this experimental oddity an almost dreamlike mystique, and using a diary format, it’s more of a talking point that a cohesive whole. However, this doesn’t make The Tsugua Diaries any less fascinating.

The Tsugua Diaries opens at Film at Lincoln Centre in New York City on 27 May before opening wider.

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