Director: Pia Hellenthal
Words – Rhiannon Topham
Social media sensation Eva Collé pronounced privacy a defunct concept when she was 14. By 17, she’d left her small Italian town and troubled family life behind in search of something more liberating. Now 25 and living in Berlin, she’s challenging expectations and dismantling the box our patriarchal society tried to cage her in.
The model, sex worker, and feminist purposely lives her life as a spectacle for others to watch and enjoy – or, as we frequently see through onscreen questions and comments from anonymous followers, criticism and outright condemnation.
Pia Hellenthal’s character study of this enigmatic afflatus, Searching Eva, follows Eva’s uncensored escapades around Berlin, Italy, Mexico and Greece, meeting family, friends, clients and potential roommates with often eye-opening frankness.
Voice over provided by Eva introduces her observations of the world and her own position within it, as a woman, as a sex worker, as a body and spirit. We learn more about her and gain some insight into how her mind works, but never really understand who she is. And that’s the point; she, just like everyone else, is a work in progress, a mass of matter trying to navigate the complex matrix of political, social, and economic structures which hold so many of us back.
Having said that, the literal full-frontedness in Searching Eva will, undoubtedly, be the cause of great disdain for many viewers. Reader: there’s boobs and there’s bush. This is because, in an age of female censorship on platforms such as Instagram, Eva is still making sense of her body, a form which has endured a tumultuous life and is now a spectacle for all to critique – she’s too skinny or she’s just right, she’s a freak or she’s an inspiration, she’s a source of guidance or a caveat of all that’s wrong with the world.
No ordinary portrait of a young modern woman, Searching Eva is a challenging commentary on understandings of identity, gender, and sexuality, framing these concepts to be in desperate need for re-evaluation in the dichotomous performative digital era of forced transparency and dubious privacy.