35 mm - DCP - HD - 2012 - Brazil - 80 Min - Color


Elena (original title)

A film by Petra Costa

Elena, a young Brazilian woman, travels to New York with the same dream as her mother, to become a movie actress. She leaves behind her childhood spent in hiding during the years of the military dictatorship. She also leaves Petra, her seven year old sister.

Two decades later, Petra also becomes an actress and goes to New York in search of Elena. She only has a few clues about her: home movies, newspaper clippings, a diary and letters. At any moment Petra hopes to find Elena walking in the streets in a silk blouse.

Gradually, the features of the two sisters are confused; we no longer know one from the other. When Petra finally finds Elena in an unexpected place, she has to learn to let her go.

Petra Costa


Petra Costa is a film director and actress. Before making Elena, she directed and produced the short film Olhos de Ressaca (Undertow Eyes), a poetic depiction of love and aging as seen from the perspective of her grandparents. In 2009, Olhos de Ressaca was shown in several national and international festivals, receiving important prizes, among which Best Short Film in the Rio Festival 2009, Best Short Film in the London International Documentary Film Festival 2010, Best Short Documentary in Cine Las Americas 2010, Festival and Special Jury Prize in the Gramado Festival 2009.


In directing it, Petra’s intent is to use intimate personal experiences as her raw material and project their poetry on the screen. Petra’s cinematic interests are an extension of her education and artistic training. Petra completed her undergraduate studies Summa Cum Laude in Anthropology and Theater at Barnard College, Columbia University, NY; and, her Masters in Health, Community and Development at the London School of Economics, London. From the age of fifteen, she has been working professionally as an actress.

Petra Costa

Original language: Brazilian
Produced by: Petra Costa and Busca Vida Films



45th Brasilia Film Festival 2012: Audience award & Best Documentary Award
45th Brasilia Film Festival2012: Best direction, Best Editing, Best Art Direction
ZagrebDox International Competition -  Special Mention Award

IDFA 2012 – First Appearance Competition ­

SXSW 2013 – Official selection “Visions” ­

Guadalajara Intl Film Festival 2013 –Iberoamerican Documentary selection
ZagrebDox 2013 – International Competition –
Women Intl Film Festival 2013 – Documentary Competition
Tempo Documentary Film Festival 2013 – Stefan Jarl Intl Doc Award Section