Review: First Lady of the Revolution

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First Lady of the Revolution screens at SECCA on April 4 at 5 p.m. and at Aperture 2 on April 6 at 1:30 p.m. Director Andrea Kalin will attend both screenings.

It’s easy to imagine that the 1930s South felt stifling, even to a white Presbyterian woman in Alabama. But only Henrietta Boggs would escape it and become the first lady of Costa Rica after falling in love with Jose Figueres, a wealthy Costa Rican landowner who would go on to spearhead a frequently ignored revolution in 1948.

There are more than enough documentaries out there that focus on civil wars and revolts, especially across Latin America. But Costa Rica is often overlooked for the more recent upheavals in Cuba or Nicaragua, and the stories are rarely told from a perspective of someone like Boggs.

Women took up arms in plenty of liberation struggles in Central America, but Boggs played a different role in Costa Rica, influencing and supporting her husband through a period of exile, turmoil, revolt and later victory. She committed to the revolution but her relationship suffered, and this documentary chronicles her life before and after Figueres featured prominently in it.

First Lady of the Revolution is exciting in that it offers a unique perspective on a conflict that’s often overlooked. The film doesn’t fill in all of the important details of Boggs’ life, and it begins a little slowly. But Boggs is a captivating presence on the camera, not just through archival photographs but also in much more recent interviews, back home in Alabama.

— Eric Ginsburg

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