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Sink or Swim (1990)Sink or Swim (1990)

Sink or Swim (1990)

Su Friedrich’s experimental documentary combines memory and storytelling to recollect her strained relationship with her father and her fragmented sense of self

Documentary, Drama

8.6

movie

United States of America

English

Discussion-sparking, Original, Thought-provoking

1990

Female director, Su Friedrich

48 min

Synopsis

Through a series of twenty six short stories, a girl describes the childhood events that shaped her ideas about fatherhood, family relations, work and play. As the stories unfold, a dual portrait emerges: that of a father who cared more for his career than for his family, and of a daughter who was deeply affected by his behavior. Working in counterpoint to the forceful text are sensual black and white images that depict both the extraordinary and ordinary events of daily life. Together, they create a formally complex and emotionally intense film.

Our Take

8.6
Taylor Leigh Harper

One of the most notable avant-garde filmmakers, Su Friedrich is both a tour-de-force of documentary filmmaking and queer cinema. In Sink or Swim, Friedrich explores the complicated dynamic between a distant, work-oriented father and young daughter longing for his attention, approval, and love.

At just barely 45 minutes, Sink or Swim is cinematic poetry. The movie slowly unfolds across six vulnerable vignettes, through which Friedrich invites the viewer to meditate on the past alongside her. Through photographs, archival footage, and loose narrative storytelling, Freidrich shows that storytelling is a way of both healing the past and learning to live with its ghostly figures.

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