Rubén Mendoza, Colombia, 2017, 90'
International Premiere
Thursday August 10th, 11.00, Cinema Teatro Kursaal
Friday August 11th, 18.30, L'altra Sala

en / it / de / fr

The opening sequence immediately sets the atmosphere of Ruben Mendoza’s portrait of an unusual woman. Across the windscreen of a car, the camera films the stony road somewhere in the mountainous countryside of Colombia. It captures a figure in a red mini skirt and then accompanies it hiking energetically up the hill, jumping across streambeds and finally reaching a small house. The picture opens up and frames the simple home nestling amid mountain scenery far away from all civilisation. Later we see the house owner chopping wood with powerful axe blows. Her leg muscles are tensed, and suddenly we realize that this is a man’s body.

Unobtrusively, Mendoza films the daily life of this woman with the biblical name María, gradually coaxing her painful life story from her. María grew up in a small village not far from her current exile – rumours have it that she was born a boy, the son of incestuous siblings. María was raised by her grandmother who kept the child’s scandalous descent a secret, dressing her in girl's clothes and certainly shaping her sexual identity. She took her out of school early and had her work for her completely isolated from the village community. We guess from María's trembling voice that those years wreaked some psychological damage, yet she absolves her surrogate mother from all blame. In later years, María withdrew from the hostile gaze and the scorn of the villagers and built herself a little home in the mountains where she can move freely as a woman. She is self-sufficient and only has few acquaintances.

It is to the credit of the filmmaker that he pays only little attention to María's unfathomable past, observing and listening to her instead. The protagonist visibly enjoys this attention and displays her corporeality for the camera. The seemingly ironic soundtrack sometimes takes up some rhythmic brass band elements of the catholic procession in the village, reflecting María's deep religiosity. Set against the evening sky bathed in light, she passes her comb through her washed, long hair, and this gesture with a feminine connotation is a ritualized act of deliverance and a homage to María's personal and generous God.

Sascha Lara Bleuler