How much do we really know the past? History is never as straightforward as what we see from the likes of Ken Burns or the BBC. In Jean Cárdenas’ Memories in Silhouettes, the past consists of a series of anecdotes taken from the journal of the recently deceased grandfather of Mateo Hernandez (Diego Giraldo). His grandfather was an enigmatic man, seemingly involved in a multitude of events in the layered history of Colombia, including the infamous Age of Heroes, an age where “fantasies are made true.” The journal is a veritable goldmine of historical details – even if it’s not as grounded in reality as we’re led to believe from the start.

Herein lies the focus of Cárdenas’ mysterious short film. While initially set up to be a factual retelling of events lifted from the diary of Mateo’s grandfather, it quickly becomes apparent that this isn’t quite what one would read about in history texts. It’s an enjoyable conceit, and the filmmaker clearly has fun with the idea. Cárdenas crafts a fun history, like a band of rebels supporting the poor in the vein of Robin Hood. There’s also the sleek and sexy Silueta, a famous outcast known for leaving notes in the wake of her actions.

“…a band of rebels supporting the poor in the vein of Robin Hood.”

The PBS aesthetic of the footage and narration is well done. The deft insertion of contemporary actors as the camera slowly pans across old photographs is seamless enough to pass as believable. But it retains enough artifice so as to prevent the loss of any tongue-in-cheek commentary on the staid nature of historical documentaries.

Memories in Silhouettes works as a funny and cogent commentary on how subjective history can truly be. The movie looks to be a building block for a promising new artist in Jean Cárdenas. Even if his CV might not be as varied as Mateo’s grandfather, here’s hoping we see more from the young filmmaker.



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