Review: Diary of a Film by Niven Govinden


Your problem has always been in how you find beauty in unexpected places.

The way I can describe to you this book could be very complex and yet, I spare you (or myself) the eye roll and keep it simple: imagine if The Secret History and Call Me By Your Name had a beautiful child, complex yes, in the eternal search of beauty and obsessed with art in its many forms, but also breezy, like the summer air in Italy, with a gelato in its hands, running around on bikes, thinking about yet another plate of pasta, sneaking out at night in the heat.

Diary of a Film made me re-evaluate Niven Govinden's craft - I was not a fan of This Brutal House like, at all! - and now I can easily say this is gonna be one of the best books of the year.

This book follows an auteur as he spends a few days in Italy with his actors for the premiere of their new films. What comes out of that week is a beautiful story about love and grief, about letting go even if you're scared. It's about the fear of being lonely, no matter how much you matter to others, how much you're a part of their life, there will come a moment where that will be left in the past, even if you're not ready. It's about love, mostly: the one between two lovers, the one for your job, or a city, the burning passion you feel when you know you're onto something and you want to scream it from a rooftop. 

Now, take all that and give it a beautiful little Italian town as a background, its traditions and cobbled streets, the art that speaks for itself from the restaurants, to the city's piazza, to the coloured walls of a forgotten mural.

As the maestro walks around the city, he meets a formidable woman who shows him around and in the meantime, she starts telling him the story of her life, her lost lover and her heartbreak, which ends up inspiring the auteur to make a movie about her.

The whole book is a journey through human's experiences and emotions: a new love, the sense of loneliness and abandonment of when something good comes to an end, almost like a summer away with your friends, or the school year, everything ends and the human nature is more focused on the silence of what comes after than living in the moment.
You have to give yourself up to the day in order to live it. I learned a lesson from reading that novel. You're not always in control of when and how things end. What you can control is whether you embrace the moment.

Diary of a Film is such a treasure I'm happy to have found because it made me remember my love for art and for the stories that keep the flame burning.
5/5 ⭐


An auteur, together with his lead actors, is at a prestigious European festival to premiere his latest film.

Alone one morning at a backstreet café, he strikes up a conversation with a local woman who takes him on a walk to uncover the city's secrets, historic and personal. As the walk unwinds, a story of love and tragedy emerges, and he begins to see the chance meeting as fate. He is entranced, wholly clear in his mind: her story must surely form the basis for his next film. 

This is a novel about cinema, flâneurs, and queer love - it is about the sometimes troubled, sometimes ecstatic creative process, and the toll it takes on its makers. 

But it is also a novel about stories and the ongoing question of who has the right to tell them. 

Get your copy here.

*An early copy of this book has been provided by Dialogue Books but all opinions are my own.