Women Filmmakers: Lina Rodriguez

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.

María Serrano
María Serrano in ‘Señoritas’ (2013)

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?).

Clara Monroy and Laura Osma
Clara Monroy and Laura Osma in ‘Mañana a esto hora’ (2016)

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.


Poster for Mañana a esta hora

Filmography:

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


Further Reading:

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Women Filmmakers’ Wednesday

Happy New Year!

I used to put up more film reviews over on this site, but now most of that is over on Letterboxd, so my blog is currently limping by with its weekly Criterion Sunday posts. This is hardly a huge amount of content to thrill my regular readers (hello, are there any?) and it also misrepresents my filmic interests, given that the Criterion Collection has been often criticised in the past (and not entirely unfairly) for its focus on a certain strand of largely Eurocentric arthouse filmmaking, driven by prominent male auteurs (Bergman, Fellini, Fassbinder: the usual suspects), and neglecting even major non-Western film-producing cultures (aside, arguably, from Japan). In fact, the number of films directed by women which are featured in their collection has always been very low, even compared to the number of directors working in the industry, though it appears they are making efforts to correct this somewhat (there have been recent releases of films by Barbara Loden, Elaine May, Euzhan Palcy and Susan Seidelman, amongst others), but it will take, er, decades for that to filter through here given my one-a-week posting schedule…

So, I thought it would be good to start a new regular strand to focus on some filmmakers whose work I’ve enjoyed or found interesting, who aren’t featured often enough in the usual lists. It is almost certain this year that my Letterboxd list of every feature film I’ve seen directed by a woman will pass 1000 entries, and yet too often I’ve barely read anything about some of these directors. Even a cursory internet search for ‘films by women’ tends to bring up the same names all the time (Ava DuVernay, Jane Campion, Sofia Coppola), which doesn’t represent nearly enough of the really great work that women filmmakers have been putting out in the last decade or two, not to mention historically (I have yet to really get stuck into Kino Lorber’s recent “Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers” box set, but it’s just one of a number of such releases recently, and looks likely to help change some of the conversation around film history and how it’s understood and taught).

I’m quite sure plenty of people will be familiar with a lot of the names in my series — anyone who has made an effort to keep up with the most interesting world cinema — but, as with my Films by Women page (a list that I try to keep updated regularly), I just wanted to add a little bit, however amateurishly, to the writing about the work of all these creators. I also hope it will be a spur to my own watching habits, as many of these women’s films can sometimes be quite hard to see.

(I shall update this post each week as I add new directors, and link it from my Films by Women page.)