I’m going to kick off my (hopefully regular) Wednesday series on women filmmakers with the one to whom I’ve most recently been introduced, courtesy of the streaming platform Mubi, whose canny programming has brought my attention to a number of directors I’d never previously encountered. Latin American cinema, in particular right now, seems to be booming with talented women directors, and in that regard one may look to the career of Argentinian director Lucrecia Martel, who came to prominence at the turn of the millennium with La Ciénaga (2001), and about whom I shall undoubtedly write in coming months. She is hardly the first woman to direct films in the Latin American world, but she is among the most rigorous and visually precise of all active filmmakers in the region, and one of the foremost (and most championed) auteurs in the world, I would say. In her wake there has been no shortage of excellent films by women working in the cinemas of Mexico, Chile, Venezuela, Brazil and Peru, amongst others.
Lina Rodriguez was born in Bogotá, Colombia, though she left after school to pursue further education in the UK and then in Canada, where she has lived for several decades, meaning she is perhaps as much a Canadian filmmaker as a Colombian one (and I gather from interviews that her next feature may be set in Canada). However, for her first two feature films, she has drawn on her life in Colombia, and it’s notable that her mother (Clara Monroy) has appeared in both her films, suggesting a semi-autobiographical patina to the events depicted within them.
Certainly, these two features — Señoritas (2013) and Mañana a esto hora (This Time Tomorrow, 2016) — are both about young women, largely within a domestic setting. Of course, in both films the characters venture beyond the walls of their home, but there’s a sense of entrapment even there, as the camera maintains a tight focus, particularly on Alejandra (María Serrano) in the earlier film. The camera follows her walking along the streets in extended long takes with very little seen beyond the back of her head, but the elongated nature of the takes and the careful sound design means that the viewer becomes acutely conscious of what is (or may be) around her, almost like a horror movie, if without the specific outcomes of that genre (she remains safe, but how much can that be taken for granted?).
At home we see her interacting with her mother, just as the 17-year-old Adelaida interacts with her aunt in This Time Tomorrow, both of these older characters being played by the director’s mother. In many ways these scenes are among the most memorable, strongly reminiscent of the way that Chantal Akerman integrated her mother into her films (indeed made her the primary focus in many), as the women undertake repetitive domestic chores like folding up plastic bags or repairing clothes. There is therefore a renewed sense of the domestic space as being one not just worthy of being filmed, but one laden with expectations and, in short, drama.
That said, neither film is exactly replete with plot incident. Rather Rodriguez’s tone seems to be the quotidian movement of one woman’s life, the patterns of friendship and socialising set against time at home and its attendant obligations. If the first film seems particularly minimal in that regard, This Time Tomorrow opens it out by taking a turn midway through the film, in a way that infuses the same daily actions with a new sense of grief and loss.
Rodriguez thus looks like a filmmaker who may be exploring complex emotional registers with each succeeding work, and therefore I am excited to see where she moves with her next feature.
Señoritas (2013) || Director/Writer Lina Rodriguez | Cinematographer Alejandro Coronado | Starring María Serrano, Clara Monroy | Length 87 minutes || Seen at home (streaming), London, 1 January 2019
Mañana a esta hora (This Time Tomorrow, 2016) || Director/Writer Lina Rodriguez | Cinematographer Alejandro Coronado | Starring Laura Osma, Maruia Shelton, Francisco Zaldua, Clara Monroy | Length 85 minutes || Seen at home (streaming), London, 2 January 2019
- Film Society of Lincoln Center (July 2013 interview by Tiffany Vazquez)
- Toronto Film Critics Association (August 2014 interview by Kiva Reardon)
- Frieze (Locarno Film Festival guide by Ela Bittencourt)
- Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) (personal essay by Lina Rodriguez)
- Toronto Film Critics Association (August 2017 interview by Kiva Reardon)
- The Globe and Mail (Toronto) (August 2017 interview by Kate Taylor)
- YouTube (CBC News) (August 2017 interview by Eli Glasner)
- Mubi Notebook (December 2018 essay by Naomi Keenan O’Shea)
- Cinema Scope (undated review of Mañana a esta hora by Angelo Muredda)