REVIEW: ‘Vacio/a’ finds love in IKEA catalog

Vacio/a follows a breakup in the pages of an IKEA catalog. Photo courtesy of Carmen Amelia Rojas Gamarra.

The new Peruvian short film Vacio/a (Empty) charts a rocky romantic relationship by using only images from an IKEA catalog. The 6-minute feature is clever, funny and certainly unique. Kudos to director Carmen Amelia Rojas Gamarra for finding a new way to tell an old tale.

The film recently played the Neighboring Scenes festival co-presented by The Film Society of Lincoln Center and Tropical Cinema. The slate of movies celebrated the diversity of new Latin America cinema, and Vacio/a fit nicely in the program. It doesn’t go that deep or have too many items to discuss when bringing up the complicated issue of love, but its presentation is original and memorable.

Gamarra moves from one page of the IKEA catalog to the next, each image almost perfectly matching the voiceover. She returns to some pages and thus begins to build characters. Obviously there’s no movement (any animation would have ruined the effect), so audience members need to fill in the blanks and use their imagination.

Of course, there is a deeper meaning behind the short film. The only reason the director would use IKEA imagery to tell this story is to comment on consumerism and commercialization. In the real world, it does feel sometimes that relationships are defined, built and broken according to how they are displayed in the media. The public receives so many images of what life should be like, what life appears to be (at least in the minds of a corporation). By poking fun at this aesthetic, Gamarra actually creates a biting critique of the falsity of advertising and the unfortunate un-reality of so many media images.

Yet, there’s also a human quality in these advertisements that is identifiable and universal. Are they pictures of an idealized society? Do they represent reality? Are these creations of how the world wants to live? Perhaps all of the above?

By John Soltes / Publisher /

Vacio/a (2016), directed by Carmen Amelia Rojas Gamarra, recently played the Neighboring Scenes festival co-presented by The Film Society of Lincoln Center and Cinema Tropical. Running time: 6 minutes. Rating: ★★★☆ Click here for more information.

John Soltes

John Soltes is an award-winning journalist. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Earth Island Journal, The Hollywood Reporter, New Jersey Monthly and at, among other publications. E-mail him at

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