As part of the Bristol Film Festival, on 11 – 13 March 2016, at the RWA: a film directed by Julie Taymoor and starring Selma Hayek – Frida.

Based on the biography of Mexican artist, Frida Kahlo, born in the early 1900s, and suffering great personal tragedy throughout her life, the story of Frida is both illuminating in its honest depiction of the complexities that made up her identity. Exploring the political, sexual and artistic layers of the time in which Frida lived, the film reveals the truth behind this somewhat tortured artist.

Dr Catherine Hunt, an expert in her field, having completed her PhD in 2012 on the depiction of gloves in western art, between 1400 – 1660, will be introducing the film – contextualising it within its cultural space.

Leaving behind her a legacy that is as formidable and controversial as her existence itself, Frida Kahlo has carved herself a place in history as someone who was unafraid to defy expectations and retained her fighting, feminist spirit, despite much heartbreak and personal pain.

“She was clearly a colourful character, and she lived during a particularly interesting historical period.”

Dr Catherine Hunt has maintained an interest in the true nature of Frida Kahlo, having been fortunate to be able to visit Frida’s house in Mexico. She will be introducing the film Frida, offering insight into the curious yet complex character of Frida Kahlo and the legacy she left behind.

“I have not done any academic research into Frida Kahlo, but she is an artist I have been interested in for a long time and I was fortunate to be able, a few years ago, to visit her house in Coyoacán in Mexico. She was clearly a colourful character, and she lived during a particularly interesting historical period, familiar with a number of key individuals in political and artistic circles. She was politically very active, with her leftist politics encouraging an international perspective, yet at the same time she was passionate about Mexican nationalism, and she adopted a self-consciously Mexican identity both in her traditional dress and in her art.” Dr Catherine Hunt explains.

Dr Catherine Hunt’s PhD was a specialised and sustained research project, looking to assess the depiction of certain modes of fashion in western art during 1400 – 1660. This has filtered through to her interests in Frida Kahlo as an artist, and her relationship to the cultural climate she lived within, as Dr Catherine Hunt explains:

“Her struggle with personal tragedy, pain and disability is a moving story, and is articulated powerfully through her art. Her artworks, though, convey her sharp intelligence and are never sentimental or simplistic.” She says.

“I was also interested in the portrayal of Frida Kahlo as an artist, as opposed to her portrayal as a historical person.”

Dr Catherine Hunt teaches at the University of Bristol in the Department of History of Art. A course she teaches, on the concept of the artist and in particular, the artist biopic, has provided a framework of sorts, to formulate a meaningful understanding of the character of Frida Kahlo.

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Dr Catherine Hunt

“In what ways is an artist fictionalised to conform to stereotypes and to promote celebrity status, for example? So these were questions that interested me as I reflected on Julie Taymor’s film, and on Salma Hayek’s portrayal of Frida. I was also interested in the portrayal of Frida Kahlo as an artist, as opposed to her portrayal as a historical person.” Dr Catherine Hunt explains.

Frida has successfully balanced the conflicting sides of Frida Kahlo’s personality to reflect not only the individual struggle of this highly political and controversial character, but also presents a highly insightful account of a historical and cultural era that we might otherwise be unaware of.

“One of the things that makes Frida successful as a film, in my view, is its lack of sentimentality in relation to her suffering, and the portrayal of both Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera as powerful and interesting personalities and artists.” Dr Catherine Hunt says.