TIFF 2017 Review: ‘Damiana’ and ‘Mother (Madre)’
Making its North American debut at the Toronto International Film Festival, Damiana is a Spanish-language selection directed by Andrés Ramírez Pulido and starring newcomer Magaly López. Isolated deep in the Colombian jungle, Damiana and a group of teen girls withstand strenuous indoctrination to steer them down the right path in life. It’s an arresting and bracingly intimate study of youthful restlessness and endurance in a hostile environment.
This is the second short film from Pulido which also had a successful run at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival. With Damiana, he tells a fictionalized version of events depicting his time observing teenagers in the Tolima region of Colombia where he resides. It’s a gritty film – just as gritty as the circumstances that Damiana and her companions face daily. There are heartbreaking contrasts between their youth and the harsh impact of their reality and separation from their families. The reason for their isolation is revealed in subtle hints dropped throughout the film rather than jumping into it and it’s a beautiful exploration of innocence and grit and the hard realities of life. Pulido masterfully uses the 15-minute running time to tackle themes of tough love, abandonment, redemption and faith and his fictionalization of a real-life problem is an eye-opener and a wonderful addition to the TIFF Short Cuts lineup.
While at home in her apartment with her own mother in Spain, a woman gets a phone call from her six-year-old son, who’s on vacation in France with his father. What ensues is an expertly crafted and uncommonly intense thriller based on every parent’s nightmare.
Mother (Madre) is a selection directed by Rodrigo Sorogoyen (Stockholm and May God Save Us) and starring Marta Nieto (Ciega a citas). We have 19 terrifying and anxious minutes to witness the levels of emotional multitasking involved in M attempts to locate her son, keep him calm, locate his father, contact the authorities, and keep her mother at arm’s length while she deals with the situation. Her terror, fear, and frustration are kept at bay, but slowly crescendo until she reaches a breaking point brought on by a mysterious stranger that appears on the same beach as her son, ramping up the desperation.
Mother (not to be confused with Darren Aronofsky’s feature film mother!) was a master class in making the most of your time with a short film. When the credits roll, we don’t know Iván’s fate, if Marta reaches him, or anything more about his negligent father. We get a glimpse of a mother at her most vulnerable moment and take our leave as she leaves to find her son.
**This piece also appears on the blog Black Girl Nerds.