Paola Mendoza, Sebastian Villada Lopez, Laura Montana Cortez
WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY
Paola Mendoza and Gloria La Morte
NR (Equiv. to R)
A Crystal Heart Award winner during the 2009 Heartland Film Festival in Indianapolis, "Entre Nos" is the story of Mariana (Paola Mendoza, "Sangre De Mi Sangre"), a young woman raising two children, 10-year-old Gabriel (Sebastian Villada Lopez) and 6-year-old Andrea (Laura Montana Cortez), on her own in Colombia while their father tries to make a better life for the family in the United States. Finally reunited in New York City, the father quickly and definitively announces that he has obtained a new job in Miami and will be leaving immediately...without Mariana or the children.
Before long, it is quickly revealed that Mariana and children are abandoned and with only $50 to their name and brand new in a country they've yet to figure out the three set out to figure out a way to survive. First, Mariana tries to sell her Empanadas on the street. Then, she attempts to work labor while leaving the children at home. Finally, out of desperation after losing their small apartment, the family begins recycling cans on the street and doing anything they can to survive.
Inspired by a true story, that of Paola's mother upon her arrival in the United States, "Entre Nos" is a beautiful and heartfelt film about a family's love for and dedication to one another even under the most challenging of circumstances. During a time in which those who don't speak the "native" English are routinely ostracized in this country, "Entre Nos" is a powerful reminder about the American dream and the diversity that has built this country since its very beginnings.
Along with its Crystal Heart Award, "Entre Nos" received an Honorable Mention at the Tribeca Film Festival and was the Audience Award winner for Best Narrative Feature at the Newport International Film Festival while also being an Official Selection at several other film festivals around the world. Co-written and directed by Mendoza and Gloria La Morte, who'd earlier collaborated on the documentary "Autumn's Eyes," "Entre Nos" is clearly a personal project for Mendoza as she lives out the experiences of her mother's entry into this nation.
Mendoza offers an intimate, vulnerable performance as the young mother who barely speaks any English and yet is quickly left to fend for herself and her children in what can seem like a strange place even to those who've always lived here. Similarly, the wonderfully cast youngsters who play her children, Sebastian Villada Lopez and Laura Montana Cortez, give remarkably mature performances as young children who find creative and sometimes painful ways to survive their challenging circumstances.
Being a Heartland Film Festival award winner should assure audiences that the film they are about to see will be one that celebrates the human spirit and inspires and, indeed, "Entre Nos" does these things in abundance as the family works together to survive, build community and create hope for one another.
The script for "Entre Nos" was created after Mendoza sat down with her mother to ask questions she'd never asked and, as well, to ask her mother's blessing to make the film. Having received her mother's blessing, Mendoza got to work with La Morte and wrote the script over the course of two years and subsequently received the Panasonic Digital Filmmakers Award from Independent Film Week and were accepted into Tribeca's All Access Program. These successes allowed the partners access to the cameras and equipment needed to make "Entre Nos" a reality.
While there are moments in "Entre Nos" that feel, almost inevitably, too personal and a touch melodramatic, it's hard not to marvel at Mendoza's ability to tell her mother's story from the perspectives of daughter, filmmaker and actress. While not always success, it is Mendoza's ability to blend these three roles into the fabric of the cinematic life of "Entre Nos" that gives the film its heart and soul in a way reminiscent of the magnificent and underrated "Innocent Voices."
Beautifully told and photographed with images that will rest in your heart and mind long after the closing credits, "Entre Nos" is one of the 2009 Heartland Film Festival's quieter gems.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic