New Film: Girl Made Slave for Land Rights
As film festivals go, the documentary feature "Paulina" has two strikes against it from the start: one, it's a documentary; two, it's about a woman.
For those same reasons, among others, Ray Santisteban, director of media arts at the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center, chose "Paulina" to open the 21st annual San Antonio CineFestival.
The film, which will be screened at 8 p.m. Wednesday at the Guadalupe Theater, 1301 Guadalupe St., tells the story of Paulina Cruz Suárez, a servant in Mexico City, who as a child in the 1950s was traded away to the town boss by her parents for land rights.
"Paulina" will be followed by a gala reception with Cruz and the makers of the film. The Latino video and film festival, teamed with the Latino Laugh Festival this year for the first time, continues through June 14 at the Guadalupe Theater and other venues.
The award-winning film by director/ producer Vicky Funari -- whose family employed Cruz -- and producer Jennifer Maytorena Taylor reveals how Cruz was ostracized by the people of her village in rural Veracruz after she was traded away and raped by the town boss, who kept her as his unwilling mistress until she escaped to Mexico City at 15 to start a new life. The film follows Cruz as she returns to her village to confront her family and her past.
Opening a film festival with a documentary such as "Paulina" is "very unusual," Santisteban says. "I can't recall festivals that have done that in recent memory that are major festivals.
"I did that for a very specific reason. One is because I come from a documentary background and I know documentaries are regulated to fringe times within festivals and also women's films are very rare.
"It's always been a struggle for Chicana filmmakers to be able to get their stories made because they don't get a lot of support," he adds. "So to me, it was like, 'I know this. I'm aware of this. This is a strong film. I'm going to put this film up front.' "