It's a brilliant idea. The findings of a recent survey of Anne Arundel County, Maryland determined that, after English, the most spoken languages in our county are Spanish, Urdu, Chinese, and Vietnamese. Wouldn’t it be great to hold a film series at a local library that features movies in those languages? That’s exactly what Angela Nambiar (Multicultural Programming and Outreach Liason at Anne Arundel County Public Library) and Ann Glenn (Executive Director of the AACPL Foundation) did, selecting these films:
Dukhtar (2014, Urdu)
Shower (1999, Chinese)
Entre Nos (2009, Spanish)
The Scent of Green Papaya (1993, Vietnamese)
These two ladies, partnering with Anne Arundel United, created the World Cinema Film Series, running four Wednesday nights in August at the Maryland City Community Library. I was unable to attend the first two Wednesdays, but was delighted to make it last night to watch Entre Nos (2009). The room was more than half-filled when I arrived several minutes early and was nearly at capacity by the time the program started.
Ann Glenn is one of the most dedicated and knowledgable cinephiles I know. She expertly introduced Entre Nos (Between Us), a film about a Colombian immigrant named Mariana (Paola Mendoza) and her two children desperately trying to survive in New York City in the heart of summer after being abandoned by her husband. The film was written and directed by Paola Mendoza and Gloria LaMorte and based largely on the plight of Mendoza’s own mother.
I don’t want to tell you too much about the film, but I was pleased to discover that the directors successfully avoid stereotypes, overt sentimentality, and worn-out clichés. They also make several smart decisions as far as pacing, camera angles (often from the point-of-view of the young children), and knowing when to end scenes. Watching the film, you feel you’re looking at Mariana’s plight through her (and her children’s) eyes, constantly asking yourself, “What if this situation were reversed and I found myself in a foreign country with two young children?” In the hands of many American directors, this film might’ve included an angry shop-owner yelling at Mariana for collecting aluminum cans from his dumpster, or some bigot yelling, “Why don’t you go back to your own country?” Thankfully we get none of this, but rather a thoughtful, honest look at this family’s dilemma.
We also get some fine performances, especially from the children. Sebastian Villada plays Mariana’s young son Gabriel, a boy who’s trying to figure out how to be the man of the house and still be a kid. As much as Mariana wants to communicate with people who can help her, Gabriel is the only member of the family that speaks passable English. As Gabriel’s little sister Andrea, Laura Montana Cortez is a wonderful combination of a kid who wants to explore her new world, but keeps asking her mom if she’s sure she’s okay. As Mariana, Mendoza seeks to keep the family together without showing the complete despair she feels. There’s a beautiful scene in a park at night when Mariana tells Andrea a story about the stars. Again, another director would’ve hit you over the head with this scene, but Mendoza gives us just enough to convey that Mariana and Andrea are silently wishing on those stars.
Ann led an excellent discussion after the film and several audience members talked about the film, the current atmosphere in America concerning immigrants, and the need to do something. Doing something might mean getting involved with helping immigrant families in our communities or it may mean something as simple as recommending the film to others. If you live in Anne Arundel County and have a library card, you can watch the film on Kanopy.
The next film in the World Cinema Film Series will be The Scent of Green Papaya (1993) on Wednesday, August 22 at 6:30pm at the Maryland City Library. This series is such a wonderful idea that I’m sure Angela and Ann wouldn’t mind your stealing it for your own communities.
Photos: Kanopy, Covering Media, Titlovi, IMDb