Bobbi Jene review 1Year: 2017
Director(s): Elvira Lind
Writer(s): N/A
Rating: N/A
Color, 95 mins

Synopsis: A performance artist finds herself at a crossroads, both personally and professionally. 

“You enjoy pleasure, you enjoy effort, give your body pleasure.” The ideas behind this statement, delivered by dancer, teacher, choreographer, Bobbi Jene Smith, are what make up Elvira Lind’s documentary, Bobbi Jene. Filmed over the course of a few years, Lind’s wonderful character study explores the notion that happiness is earned through hard work and sacrifice, not something we fall into. From this simple but primal truth, Lind’s film soars through intimacy and raw urgency. Lind goes beyond the art to find the woman underneath it all, proving that the quest for self-fulfillment is an ongoing journey, not a destination.

After leaving Iowa to dance at the Batsheva Company in Israel, Bobbi Jean Smith reflects on a decade of prosperity and decides its time to move on. It’s not that she’s bored, or dislikes the company that she’s in, but there’s a nagging feeling she needs to expand her art and take control of it. Not content with just playing a role, Smith wants to create her own pieces, and in turn, discover parts of her self she’s never even considered. Smith’s homecoming to America presents a host of personal and professional hurtles, however, making her an outsider looking to hone her craft in an alien landscape. If there’s one thing that Smith excels at, its adapting to a challenge and coming out stronger, resulting in the creation of a piece that shows Smith and her art as one in the same.

Bobbi Jene review 2What makes the film stand out is its earnest intimacy, leaving no part of Smith’s life out of the picture to create a portrait of constant transformation. Rather than focusing on her art and talent as a separate trait, Lind explores how Smith is defined through it, allowing it to consume every aspect of her life as she dives headfirst into an unknown, but exciting future. With Smith at a crossroads, Lind showcases her empowering and restless spirit, one that’s always navigating a search for identity and truth. Fittingly, Lind’s film alternates between mundane moments of Smith’s home life, offering candid moments with family and their hopes for her, as she balances a long distance relationship with one of Batsheva’s dancers, Or Schraiber. Lind doesn’t skimp out on Smith’s impressionistic dance numbers, but its the context behind them, the struggles, hopes and fears that anchor the film in satisfying ways.

Whether you have a interest in Smith’s contemporary dance or not, Bobbi Jene is fascinating because of Lind’s personal perspective. From Smith’s piece on effort, which requires her to orgasm fully nude in front of her audience, to a conversation with Smith’s mother on what inspired it, Lind’s film is a reflection of the elusive search for self-betterment, following along as the artist channels her entire being in order to challenge perception and complacency. Ultimately, the film is a potent reminder that life is too short too stand still for too long, and that the key freedom comes from the parts of ourselves we’ve yet to discover.