Premiering with Document, the filmmaker’s ‘FREE WILL VICE VERSA’ meditates on ritual, mystery, and personal meaning-making

Shawna Ferreira’s practice is off-the-cuff. It’s intimate and exploratory, composed of video that feels a lot like portraiture: a woman adjusting her clothes on the line; a man painting his walls bright-white; kids finishing a swim, clambering over seaside rocks and sand in the falling sun.

Over the past few years, the New York-based photographer and filmmaker spent time traveling across Portugal, where her father’s family lives. There, she developed a short film, titled FREE WILL VICE VERSA—intuitively shot, balancing narrative with the abstract, and centered on the concept of repetition. “To say the least, much of our lives are governed not by our conscious decisions or thoughts, but by our habits, whether behavioral, emotional, or even linguistic,” writes Ferreira. “The dividing line is whether you give some kind of magical significance to the ritual.”

In that spirit, the vignettes that characterize Ferreira’s film imbue quotidian moments with a sense of wonder. It’s set to the dreamlike music stylings of Peter Kember, otherwise known as Sonic Boom, who she listened to as a young teenager and happened to meet in Sintra. She came across her narrator upon a fisherman’s island off Portugal’s southern coast, who shares her desire to tie the everyday together with mystery and personal meaning-making. “It’s the most marvelous world,” he says, as Ferreira’s fleeting visions pass by. “We cannot lose passion. Even if we have to invent small dreams.”