My Favorite War. Steps of truth


    The latest film by Latvian director Ilze Burkovska Jacobsen, My Favorite War / Moja ulubiona wojna (2020), summons the communist past of Latvia, recollected through the director’s memories of childhood and adolescence. Merging animation, archive footage and live action, the documentary reenacts history on its own ethical terms – Jacobsen is not interested in alluding to facts and events which she or her family hasn’t previously experienced. On the contrary, she’s invested in a personal reinterpretation of domestic and social hardships in the emerging political background.

    The bidimensional animation is driven by Ilze’s sense of belonging in both her family and her country. Thread by thread, the film showcases how Ilze was tricked to serve the socialist values in order to pursue a career in journalism, as a way of honoring her late father – a reliable man of the party. While the voice-over belongs to the adult Ilze, the animated representation is her miniature, a not-so-naïve little red pioneer. Focusing on micro-histories is a fine instrument of storytelling in this case: Jacobsen finds inventive ways to draw out the larger realities through the tiny discoveries of this girl, such as finding human bones while playing in a sandpit as a child.

    Whereas the animation has its own internal consistency and reliable characters, the use of different visual formats feels crammed, and ends up disrupting the film’s rhythm. My Favorite War’s greatest achievement is crafting a deeply personal take on the history of a country. Yet the attempt could have been more easily successful by preserving the continuity of the animation itself, which we grew to trust in the process.