Barcelona-based sales agent Philmax has acquired international rights to Venezuelan director Patricia Ortega’s comedy “Mamacruz,” which competes in World Film Play at the Sundance Festival, which opens Jan. 19.
The film is co-produced by Venezuela’s Mandragora Films and produced in Spain by Olmo Figueiredo Gonzalez-Quevedo and José Alba of Pecado Films. Sarah Gomez and Odile Antonio-Baez executive produced.
Toplining Kitty Manvar (“Woman on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown”), “Mamacruz” follows a grandmother who accidentally stumbles upon some pornographic images on her granddaughter’s tablet, leading her to rediscover her long-forgotten sexuality and desire.
The coming-of-age story, co-written by Ortega and José Ortuno (“Animus,” “Where’s Marta?”) pays homage to women who decide to take control of their own destiny.
“During the pandemic we made a very important editorial decision: we wanted to increase the production of positive, bright and hopeful stories. ‘Mamacruz’ is the result of that decision,” says producer Olmo Figueredo, co-founder of Seville-based La Claqueta.
“We love the idea Patricia gives us of a woman resurgent sexually in her seventies. A coming-of-age story, where words of sin and guilt give way to others, like enjoyment, discovery and pleasure.”
“Sundance’s selection of ‘Mamacruz’ is extremely relevant,” said Evan Diaz, International Head of Philmax.
He added: “It’s further proof that the industry in the US, as well as the rest of the world, is now paying attention to stories and voices that haven’t gotten much attention on the big screen. A film like ‘Mamacruz’, which is feminine, dynamic, optimistic and gives voice to the elderly and the outsider, has now been very well received in the international market and we are sure that Sundance buyers will see it the same way. ”
“Mamacruz” will be released in Philmax Spanish theaters.
Ortega, whose previous film, the drama “Being Impossible,” was chosen as Venezuela’s entry for the 2019 Oscar race, chatted with diversity ahead of the Jan. 20 Sundance “Mamacruise” world premiere.
“Mamacruz” is a coming of age for older people, combining humor and sensuality. Tell the story.
Cruz is a pious and very conventional grandmother, who works as a seamstress to alter the clothes of the saints in her church. His daughter, Carlotta, travels to another country to audition for a very important role as a dancer, so Cruz must take care of his granddaughter. Faced with this situation, the Internet became the only means of communication with her daughter, so Cruz learned to use video calls with the help of her granddaughter. But what happens when technology is put into inexperienced hands? Well, anything. Cruise had an accidental encounter with pornography and what was at first a source of shame and guilt gradually turned into a recovery of his sexuality and his fantasies.
You said that the movie was inspired by your mother’s photo.
The last shot of the film is a tribute to what I found in my mother, the youthful energy, joy and mischief I discovered in that photo. For me, the final shot of “Mamacruz” is the landmark image of the story, just as the portrait of my mother was a landmark image: joy as a symbol of freedom.
The film depicts a woman with deep Catholic heritage from Seville, Spain. What should international audiences expect to experience in your feature?
“Mamacruz” is a story that started as a Venezuelan one, had a Colombian counterpart at some point, then almost became an Argentinian film and finally ended up as a Spanish film. I worked on a universal plot: a conventional person, limited by his own beliefs, who, due to an incident in life, decides to fight against his fears and prejudices that he did not dare to examine. This experience is not only lived by a religious woman in Seville, it is the struggle of many people, regardless of the world.
How did you work with the cast, especially lead actress Kitty Manvar?
Under the guidance of the actors I worked using improvisation as the main tool to discover the gestures of each character, so that each actress could internalize the motivations, emotions and desires of each character, above all, so as to contribute to the growth of each actress. Looking for naturalness in character, in every word, in every gesture.
I wasn’t interested in memorizing dialogues, nor did I follow the actions of the script to the letter. The script was a sketch, a starting point, that helped us find the characters in the shoes of the actresses. The film’s writing through the bodies of the actresses lived on until the last shot, always growing.
I’m convinced that the magic that we need to exist to make a story come true, is born when you don’t completely control what happens on set, when you open the window to creation and the unexpected.
Can you give us some details about the visual concept of the movie?
The general concept of the film is based on the need to draw the dramatic arc of the character through composition, color palette and light atmosphere. Initially, the film begins with a monochromatic environment without contrast, gradually becoming a place of warm tones and chiaroscuro, nuances and multiple textures.
Mirrors and reflective surfaces were also important, I wanted my character to be constantly reflected. However, he was never aware of his own reflection, until the end, when he finally found himself.
For me it is very important that each shot tells the story, for example, we do not delve into the conflicts that exist between Cruz and her husband, but we certainly express them where they occupy each frame, always separate, distant, incommunicado, in the end , the germ of a new possibility is born.
The film is a Spain-Venezuela co-production. Can you put this in the context of the state of film production in both countries?
The reality in Venezuela and Spain is completely different. Spain has a growing industry, with limitations and conflicts, but with a national fund, local funds and tax incentives. It has alliances with other European countries and other funding networks that can be accessed. The situation in Venezuela is completely different. Political and economic instability made it difficult to raise financing for feature films and close co-productions with South America and Europe.
What are some things you can do, or hope to achieve at Sundance?
I hope we can expand the distribution possibilities of “Mamacruz”. We are also looking for potential partners for our new feature film project.
What kind of movies are you interested in making in the future?
I am interested in telling stories that question the social constructs that define our bodies, identities and gender. At the moment I’m working on my new project, “Nuve Lunas”, which addresses exactly that approach. The film approaches a high concept from a completely different perspective. I like to explore myself as a filmmaker, play, challenge and of course question my own ideas. The more I question myself, the more I find myself as a director.