My First Film Testifies to the Collective Energy Necessary for All Creation

My First Film

It feels impossible to distil Zia Anger’s My First Film (2024) to some kind of essence in a short review.

Her latest, premiering in the NEXT:WAVE competition, is a deeply personal docufiction about the fraught production of her first, technically abandoned, feature film, adapted (but also not really adapted) from her renowned 2018 feature-length live video essay/performance piece of the same name — also about the failed films of Anger’s early career. 

Taking the simultaneous forms of dramatic narrative, archival documentary, and desktop multimedia, My First Film is, in theme and form, a creation of collaboration.

Anger raises key questions about birth and filmmaking that, despite verging on cliché, form its deeply resonant core. It’s a film haunted by the past, yet somehow also haunted by the future and the promise of what’s to come. Even if the “what” is a total mystery. 

Her vulnerability in My First Film gives us privileged access to the origins of seemingly everything in her life: her birth, the strange and miraculous result of determination and marginality, and her abandoned film — a fraught amalgamation of trust, fear, betrayal, poor judgment and partial reconciliation that, in some ways, adds up to nothing.

In other ways, however, My First Film — a wildly imaginative, almost disorientingly complex and unapologetically sincere film — is a testament to the collective energy necessary for all creation, be it biological or artistic; the proof of which is tenderly embodied in the final scene, where the fictional Anger, named Vita and interpreted by Odessa Young, receives an abortion, performed in mime by the doctor who delivered her as a baby. It’s the supreme accomplishment of this film that, by the end, you don’t feel pressured to interpret or rationalise this improbable scenario, but instead experience it as if it were the real thing.

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Chris is an American freelance film programmer, writer, and critic based in London. He fills the rest of his time working in film distribution.