The Joy of Life

Director: Jenni Olson
Screenwriters: Jenni Olson

Institute History

  • 2005 Sundance Film Festival


Jenni Olson's sensual and contemplative first feature is a sublime visual poem of San Francisco that is as emotionally engaging as it is scandalously informative. Through an experimental mix of documentary and narrative storytelling, Olson seductively invites the viewer to roam spaciously through a stunning series of urban landscapes while imparting a multilayered meditation and history of the fog-shrouded city.

The story begins quietly with a tale of urban development and is taken over by the verbal diary of a butch dyke murmuring intimately about her secret lustings, insecurities, macho bravado, and loneliness. Renowned poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti sets the city as an illustrious and anchorless place on the Pacific before the diary narrative attempts to salve the pain of a dear friend's death by obsessively mapping out the complicit role the city has played in establishing the Golden Gate Bridge as the number-one suicide landmark in the world.

Olson handles the gravity of her material with humor and sensitivity, deftly delivering a wonderfully observed set of factual and emotional truths that cut to the core. At once a love letter and a scathing indictment, The Joy of Life is an alchemical mix of landscape, sexuality, and suicide that evokes a visceral portrait of that glistening precipice of love, defeat, and rebirth.

— Shari Frilot

Screening Details

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