Sylvie of the Sunshine State

A true documentary here. One in which a mom decides to document the inner workings of a family from the beginning of the pandemic. Without setting up situations, Sasha Levison explains that she is trying to show how a real family exists. The film covers a multigenerational family and how they deal with everyday life. No editing or stopping the camera.

Sylvie is a young girl living in Florida with her family. Well, her mom and grandparents live there. Her father lives with his girlfriend in Upstate New York. So they are separated. The stress of that and the pandemic get to everyone. Sasha has to be a single parent with no help from her ex-husband as he cannot get to them. Sylvie has a learning disability and online learning is really tough for her. There is even a question of her having to redo grade two.

In the middle of all this stress, things get even worse when Sylvie suffers from a medical emergency and is hospitalized. Her father can come to Florida but cannot enter the hospital.

Rarely do we get this kind of access into a family’s life. Unedited so we get the tantrums, tears, laughs, serious discussions, and even the mundane everyday things. A skateboarding fall and the subsequent tears. Dealing with the death of a baby bird and the subsequent tears. How sometimes as a parent you are tired and hungry and that your child is working on your last nerve.

Parenting…wow! It really is the hardest but most rewarding job in the world. Really comes through here. How hard it can be one moment then heart bursting due to joy, the next. Especially in today’s world where a majority of families are split up and the job of child raising is often not equally divided. Even Sasha admits that the environment in the house is toxic and that Sylvie is not even talking to her anymore. Both Sylvie and Sasha end up in tears.

Sasha, a filmmaker/commercial director, even has a discussion with Sylvie about deleting videos off her phone of fights. Sasha wants Sylvie to keep even that footage. She even has to discuss with a family member that it is not ‘weird’ that she is filming, that they are trying to make a documentary and that the family knew that. The answer she gets is to do what you want but we are not the Kardashians.

All of it is very watchable. Highly relatable as we have all lived through these kinds of moments over the past two years. The not knowing, the being separated from the people we love, parents dealing with homeschooling for long periods, and the stress all this can put on even the closest of families.

The documentary had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival and is now being screened at other festivals.