Families are never perfect. Well, we all know that one family that seems inexplicably flawless, but they’re probably messed up too. The rest of us have to deal with strong personalities, bad decisions, and yes, sometimes even mental illness. Mexican-Canadian director Karina García Casanova’s own life has been marked by the mental health disorders of her mother and brother Juan, but it wasn’t until García was already a film student that both were officially diagnosed as bipolar. In the light of this revelation, García started looking back at her childhood and family life to reconstruct the pieces of her own biography.
When her brother Juan announced he was moving back to Canada after several years of living in Monterrey, García decided it was time to shoot her first documentary, and took on her own family as her subject. What she didn’t expect, however, was that the final film, Juanicas, would ultimately be a document of her brother’s descent into paranoid depression — with a most tragic end. García accomplishes this with intimate, fly-on-the-wall footage of her family life interspersed with archival materials that document her family’s experience with migration and adaptation to their new lives in Quebec.
The trailer doesn’t make any of this particularly explicit, but a scene of her mother singing the patriotic ranchera “Mexico lindo y querido” while driving around in their newfound city suggests the theme of immigration and uprooting, while ominous shots of her brother being escorted by police and the destroyed interior of their home give us a sense of dramatic tension and impending tragedy. Thus far Juanicas has had a successful run on the festival circuit, with Honorable Mentions at the Guadalajara International Film Festival and the Montreal International Documentary Festival.