Saturday, October 17, 2020

NewFest Spotlight: Forgotten Roads

I’m delighted to be covering a number of selections from the 32nd Annual New York LGBTQ+ Film Festival, NewFest. The festival runs October 16th-27th, 2020, and films are available to watch anywhere in the United States during that time.

Forgotten Roads
Directed by Nicol Ruiz Benavides
Ticket Information

It’s rare to find a film with an older woman as its protagonist, and it’s even rarer that the story centered around her won’t depend on a younger character and her relationship with them. The notion that a senior citizen could be appealing enough to audiences to anchor a film isn’t widely accepted, and therefore it’s particularly refreshing to find the instances where that’s precisely the case. Unsurprisingly, these atypical projects are especially interesting since they spotlight a segment of the population that is often written off by many as less relevant than younger generations.

Claudina (Rosa Ramirez) is a seventy-year-old woman in Chile who moves from the countryside following the death of her husband to move in with her daughter, Alejandra (Gabriela Arancibia). The rapport she has with Alejandra is less than warm, though she loves seeing her grandson Cristóbal (Cristóbal Ruiz). Her lackluster outlook on life changes when she meets her new neighbor Elsa (Romana Satt). Despite the fact that Elsa is married, the two begin a romantic relationship that makes Claudina feel truly alive. Their romance blossoms in a quiet town that tends toward the traditional aside from its intense preoccupation with UFO sightings.

This film is quite slow despite its brief seventy-one-minute runtime, in no hurry to have Claudina find herself as she adjusts to a new living experience and life without a partner. But it comes alive as Claudina rediscovers the passion that she has not felt for a long time, something that Elsa triggers for her and feeds into with her recognition of Claudina for the person that she is. Since the town is small and hardly anonymous, Claudina’s actions, however private they may seem, are not guaranteed to stay that way, presenting yet another obstacle to her happiness since her daughter does not want to feel judged for the choices Claudina makes for her own life.

Ramirez and Satt deliver tender performances that help to give this film its poignant and accessible feel. The incorporation of the town-wide obsession with extraterrestrial life serves as an odd addition, though the frequent flashes of light that come at unexpected moments each night serve as an opportunity for Claudina to reexamine her reality, suddenly illuminated when she isn’t expecting it and ready to return to normal almost right away with no definitive proof of what may have transpired. This film feels a bit like an extended version of that dreamlike state, an imagined existence for Claudina that has the chance to become real so long after she had ever hoped to forge her own path in life. It’s not always riveting, but it is a decent and worthwhile story.


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