Sister & Sister (Las Hijas): SXSW 2023 Review

Year: 2023

Runtime: 80 minutes

Director/Writer: Kattia G. Zúñiga

Actors: Ariana Chaves Gavilán, Cala Rossel Campos, Fernando Bonilla, Joshua De Leon, Milagros Fernandez, Gabriela Man

By Rosa Parra

Latin American cinema, Central American cinema in particular, isn’t given the necessary attention and acknowledgment it deserves. “Sister & Sister” (Las Hijas) is an example of why this type of cinema should be talked about alongside the rest of the international films. Directed by Kattia G. Zúñiga, this film follows two sisters Marina and Luna (played by Ariana Chaves Gavilán and Cala Rossel Campos), who travel to Panama from Costa Rica hoping to reunite with their estranged father.

Luna and Marina have a close relationship and are an accurate depiction of siblings. Marina (the oldest) is a young woman exploring her sexuality and one with promiscuous behavior. Luna is the complete opposite of Marina (physically and personality-wise) as she is also trying to navigate her teenage years. Her character has a physical appearance that evolves throughout the movie. 

The film excels in depicting the challenges and everyday struggles teenage girls live through. Marina does have wild behavior but is always attentive to her younger sibling, and most importantly, she’s honest with her. They have intimate conversations about sexual exploration, and Marina wanting to finally experience an orgasm. Luna is very much into meditation and breathing exercises, but she’s also coming of age and beginning to find boys attractive. 

During those conversations, they also discuss the various possibilities of how their encounter with their father will unfold. They constantly ask questions about him and try to familiarize themselves with him through the stories from their close family members. It took me a minute to fully realize that this pair of girls grew up without their father and that the only way to spend some quality time with him was to actively seek him out. That specific aspect of this story is heartbreaking because these children didn’t ask to exist in this world yet they have to grow up without a father figure. 

The film doesn’t shy away from the specificity girls experience growing up – sexual awakening and the questions that come along with it – but also the moments so many of us have lived through after we’ve begun menstruating (not being allowed to enter pools, the physical discomfort, etc). I lost count of the times I verbally said “yeap, that happened to me” that the sympathy I developed for these girls was immense, not only as a former teenage girl but as a mother of teenage girls too. 

Kattia G. Zúñiga places the film’s focus on these two sisters. The camera angles and deliberate decision to solely focus on their faces and reactions during conversations with adults works wonderfully. She also destigmatizes any unconscious bias about countries in Central America. Panama looks lovely and some of the film locations are beautiful and appealing.  

Overall, “Sister & Sister” is an introspective study of two young teenagers who yearn for their father, but eventually don’t need him because they have each other. An intimate look of sisterhood told on the backdrop of stunning Panamanian scenery. 


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s